Rival Networks Are Really Glad That Netflix Is Finally Canceling Its Shows

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Sense8. Photo: Murray Close / Netflix

On the heels of Netflix’s controversial cancellations of Sense8 and The Get Down, a bunch of network presidents gathered on Friday at the ATX Television Festival in Austin to discuss the changing TV landscape. Naturally, the topic of the rival streaming service’s ostensible rough patch came up. “I’m glad they’re canceling shows,” Nick Grad, FX’s President of Original Programming, bluntly declared. “They can’t have 10,000 shows … I think it brings them back in the ecosystem of where we’re all trying to make the best shows and the best decisions.” Craig Erwich, of Hulu, echoed the sentiment, noting that because Netflix is “capitalist,” it’s merely reached the level other networks were already operating at in terms of the bottom line: “If canceling shows is the phase where they are,” he explained, “it makes sense.”

But as the discussion turned to networks’ own decisions for pickups and cancellations, of course, things got a little more complicated. Erwich admitted that chasing after high-dollar packaged projects is “fraught with risk” — indeed, Netflix failures Sense8 and The Get Down cost around $10 million each per episode — and others admitted to regretting past cancellation decisions. “We were kind of in a confused state at NBC,” the network’s president, Jennifer Salke, said about axing Ryan Murphy’s The New Normal a few years back. “If it had hit now, the story would be completely different.”

Netflix, for its part, isn’t exactly sweating the recent string of cancellations. The company’s CEO Reed Hastings went so far as to argue last week that it should be canceling more shows and setting a higher bar for success, while, in his own recent ATX event, chief content officer Ted Sarandos frankly noted that Sense8 and The Get Down were “big, expensive” shows reaching only a “tiny audience.” As he explained the issue, “[That’s] even hard in our model.”

Networks Are Happy That Netflix Is Finally Canceling Shows