The TV glut: An era of cancellations is upon us

One Day at a Time / Photo by Mike Yarish / Netflix -- Acquired via Netflix Media Center
One Day at a Time / Photo by Mike Yarish / Netflix -- Acquired via Netflix Media Center /

While we’re currently living in the golden age of television, we’re also living in an era of the streaming wars. What does that mean for your favorite shows?

Obviously, television is not the same as it used to be. With streaming being the way of the future, much has changed in terms of how our favorite television shows are delivered to us and viewed by audiences. That means there is also an influx of content, and as they say, too much of a good thing is never actually a good thing.

Recently, Netflix cancelled the critically beloved sitcom, One Day at a Time. It caused quite the uproar on social media with countless hashtags being started in support of the series.

The same thing happened not too long ago when Freeform cancelled Shadowhunters. With the clamoring fans being so intense (the Shadowhunter fandom is perhaps, one of the most impressive fandoms I’ve ever seen in the modern era – even managing to crowdfund their own billboard) why would the shows be cancelled in the first place?

It’s simple, passionate fandoms do not always equate to huge viewership. Often times a show can breed an intense following but it will be still be a small one. As sad as it is, most media conglomerates cannot justify paying for a show just for a vocal minority.

Occasionally it does happen. Lucifer and Brooklyn Nine Nine are great examples of series that were rescued by other networks to be given a second chance at life despite having low ratings. Sometimes it works out and that’s awesome!

But I fear we are coming upon an era that will be rife with one-season wonders or shows being cancelled on cliffhangers. Why? Because there is simply too much television being made.

I’m the last person to complain about having too much television to watch. And I’m not complaining, persay, so much as making an observation. I watch everything. I love tons of different shows from a variety of genres. But there simply isn’t enough time in the day for me to watch every show out there across every streaming site and network.

With Disney+, Apple TV, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, and countless other new streaming sites all vying for consumer attention, it stands to reason there are going to be some major losses. We are in a golden age of television right now and we are going to lose a lot of fantastic projects that never get to reach their peak. People are not going to dish out money for multiple streamers every month.

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While I could see myself doing it, and I believe it still would be cheaper (mostly) than buying an expensive cable package every month, many consumers can only afford one or two a month. You have to consider families and what benefits them as a unit. What works best for their children?

Why buy WarnerMedia or Amazon Prime’s streaming when they already have Netflix and Disney+? Odds are, they’re not going to jump ship for one single series unless it reaches Game of Thrones heights (and that series is an anomaly that probably won’t be re-created for a long time).

Then you factor in the grand-standing premium cables like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and STARZ. There are simply too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough mouths to feed.

Even if you have millions of people watching television, what are the odds that all these upcoming new shows are going to get the amount of eyes necessary to warrant a second season? And with streaming giants like Netflix keeping their rating news under lock and key, we can’t even make accurate guesses as to what warrants a renewal or not.

Factor in costs. Netflix, Apple, and Disney are making bid-budget deals with household names. Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes have made lucrative deals with Netflix. Disney obviously has their finger on the pulse with Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and now Fox as their properties.

What all this means is, a lot of shows aren’t going to make the cut.

When is the last time you saw a Netflix Original continue beyond three seasons? It’s been a while since they reigned supreme with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, both series that have lost their luster in recent years.

Many Netflix series get axed in their prime unless they reach blockbuster success, like Stranger Things. The reason is simple. Cost. Normally, budgets increase from season to season. When you’ve got big name actors on-board and their shows aren’t succeeding then they have to figure out where to cut cost corners when possible.

What’s really sad is we had finally begun to move away from the time where television shows were cancelled constantly on major cliffhangers. The era of streaming began to change that.

The CW is a great example of a network that doesn’t leave its fans hanging. Their shows almost always get proper notice so the writers and producers can have a full season to wrap up their stories the way they want to. Beyond one-season failures (Life Sentence, Valor, Frequency) when is the last time a CW show was axed in its 5-6th season with no warning? Exactly. It doesn’t happen anymore.

Why? Because no one wants to go binge a show on Netflix that they know ends with a massive cliffhanger. Streaming has been great for changing the game and forcing broadcast to shake up the way they do things. Although some systems are still awfully archaic – fall TV and pilot season come to mind – streaming has fundamentally changed the way we consume television whether you like it or not.

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So as we move into the next evolution of television, an era I’m excited for, don’t get me wrong (Disney+ looks amazing) I would caution some advice to fellow TV-watchers out there: Be careful about getting attached. We’re in a whole new ballpark now and it’s kind of like the wild wild west in the land of streaming at the moment.