Inside Job and 1899 are two of the shows recently cancelled by Netflix. (Photos: Supplied / Treatment: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureJanuary 10, 2023

Why is Netflix cancelling everyone’s favourite shows?

Inside Job and 1899 are two of the shows recently cancelled by Netflix. (Photos: Supplied / Treatment: Archi Banal)

Series are ending, showrunners are pissed and fans are signing petitions. What’s going on?

So Netflix has kicked off 2023 by cancelling 1899. That show was on my must-see list – wasn’t it supposed to be really good? 

It was! The supernatural cruise ship period drama had great reviews, solid ratings, a Lost-style mystery as its central theme and a creepy mute kid who lived in cupboards. Its creators, Dark’s Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, had three seasons planned. But just six weeks after its hyped November debut, the pair announced “with heavy hearts” their show wouldn’t return. “That’s life,” the German showrunners wrote on Instagram.

Why would Netflix cancel such an expensive show so soon?

The streaming giant hasn’t revealed its reasons – it rarely does – but there could be many. Perhaps 1899 didn’t get enough viewers. Maybe the show was too costly to produce with a recession forecast. Possibly it didn’t align with Netflix’s new guiding principles – it’s trying to create “gourmet cheeseburgers” that offer “premium and commercial at the same time,” according to original series vice president Jinny Howe. Any way you look at it, cancelling 1899 so soon is an extremely odd decision. 

I hear that isn’t the only Netflix show cancelled lately…

Sadly not. Inside Job, the cute animated comedy that mocked The X Files, was renewed for a second season way back in July. That decision has now been reversed. “I’m heartbroken,” said showrunner Shion Takeuchi on Twitter. It joins the recent cancellations of thriller Archive 81 and comedy Blockbuster, each of which had fans asking what the hell had happened. Then there’s the curious case of excellent zombie thriller Black Summer. No one seems to know if it’s cancelled or not.

Will there be more?

Undoubtedly. This year’s quickfire cancellations come after more than 20 Netflix shows were axed across last year, some of which probably deserved it (Space Force, Cooking with Paris) and others that probably didn’t (The Imperfects, The Midnight Club). The first few weeks of 2023 are, probably, a sign of the times.

Making all those shows then axing them before they’ve finished their run can’t be cheap. What is going on in the streaming world?

Lots! Streaming services spent last year struggling with various economic realities. The churn is real, and savvy switching has become the norm. After losing viewers and watching shares slump, Netflix realised it couldn’t maintain endless growth forever. It’s rolling out cheaper ad-supported services, cracking down on password sharing, and seems to be focused almost entirely on launching massive global hits like Wednesday and The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Wired argues the days of Netflix investing in “weird” shows are over. So perhaps these cuts are a result of all of that.

Is there anything else I should know about?

We don’t have access to HBO Max in Aotearoa (a global service is rumoured to be launching soon) but what’s happening there is arguably even weirder than what’s going on at Netflix. Warner Bros Discovery’s streaming service isn’t just cancelling shows like Westworld and The Time Traveler’s Wife, it’s removing them from their streaming service entirely. There are more than 80 shows that have suffered this cruel fate. No one can watch them.

Wait – you can’t watch those shows anymore at all?

Unless you go old school and buy the blu rays, no. HBO Max says it may license those shows to other streaming services in the future, but this is so recent those deals haven’t been done yet.

Aaron Paul and his lil’ robot friend in season three of Westworld. (Photo: HBO)

Why in the hell would they just delete their own shows from existence?

It’s complicated, but it’s all to do with post-merger tax breaks being offered to the new Warner Bros Discovery entity. Here’s a solid in-the-weeds explainer about how all that works.

Could there be other reasons?

Possibly. The smart industry boffins at podcast The Watch recently suggested some of these seemingly weird decisions by the big streaming services could be related to residuals, the money those that work on a show get paid after its initial run. If they don’t stream those shows, they don’t have to pay residuals.

Can I still watch these shows in Aotearoa?

Netflix hasn’t yet removed any of the shows it’s cancelled, so you can still watch those. Whether you want to invest the time when they won’t ever come to their natural conclusion is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. Most HBO content is still available through its local partner Neon. That may change when the contracts come around for renewal so you might want to speed up your Westworld binge-watching plans.

Yikes. Is there anything else I can do?

You can go and sign a petition. Here’s one for 1899, here’s another for Inside Job. It’s the last throw of the ol’ dice, but if it worked for Roswell, hey, maybe it could work here too.

Keep going!