Why Netflix Isn’t Saving More Broadcast TV Shows From Cancelation


Netflix’s latest report provides insights into each title’s Hours Viewed and Views from July 2023 to December 2023. From those numbers provided (in particular, the Views metric), a TV show’s total views as well as the average view count per episode in that time frame can be deducted. The below tables present that information for four broadcast TV shows canceled by their respective networks, only to be saved by Netflix: FOX’s Lucifer and Arrested Development, NBC’s Manifest, and ABC’s Designated Survivor. After that come four key takeaways from the data. Let us know what you think by voting in the poll and leaving a comment!

Table 1: Hours Viewed 

Table 2: Views

Table 3: Total Views & Average Views per Episode

1. Netflix Original Seasons Generally Perform Worse Than Broadcast Seasons

Lucifer, Designated Survivor, and Arrested Development all followed the same trend in Views. As shown in Table 2, their first seasons were also their most-viewed, with viewership tapering off as the three series progressed. Lucifer’s sixth season had 51% of the views of its first season, while Designated Survivor had 56% and Arrested Development had just 29%. This means the seasons that aired on broadcast television had more views on Netflix than the subsequent seasons where they were Netflix original series. That’s not to be confused with Hours Viewed. You’ll see increases in hours viewed for Lucifer Season 5 and Arrested Development Season 4, as they had greater episode orders than the previous seasons. Manifest is the exception to this trend in Netflix’s latest report, but may not be for long. Its final ten episodes dropped on June 2, 2023, naturally causing a spike in viewership. As time goes on, that figure is bound to drop. The general trend shows that while Netflix may have been able to get a good return out of these shows at first, their respective broadcast networks probably don’t regret canceling them. 

2. Season-To-Season Declines Are Similar To The Original Declines On Broadcast

Besides getting canceled and saved by Netflix, Lucifer, Manifest, and Designated Survivor all have one other thing in common: they all started strong and took steep declines to the point where their cancelations were somewhat justifiable. Sure, they may not have been the lowest-rated cancelations of the season, but their networks likely figured ordering another season wouldn’t be worth it given the precedent of their declines combined with their price tags. Arrested Development is a bit different — it started low and went lower, to the point FOX actually cut its episode order in Season 3. It also aired before DVR was widespread, making it tough to compare. 

What stands out is that for the most part, not only are the declines still visible on Netflix, many are nearly identical to their initial declines on broadcast. The only exception is Manifest’s third season, which is faring much better on Netflix than it did on NBC that metric. Don’t take my word for it: this table speaks for itself, comparing the numbers in Netflix’s latest report to the series’ seasonal averages in Live + 7 Day viewership. 

This exposes a gaping issue in the state of television today. When Lucifer, Manifest, and Designated Survivor were originally on the air, some of the declines (both linear ratings and DVR ratings) could be chalked up to viewing levels simply declining, or a shift in viewership to streaming. However, now that we have streaming viewership figures, we’re seeing that their ratings are declining there as well. That can only be blamed on the shows themselves. When shows decline like this irregardless of viewing habits shifting away from live viewing, networks find themselves with less options to launch a new hit series. That can only lead to the downward spiral in ratings as a whole, as we have been seeing year after year.

3. Arrested Development Is Not Very Popular Anymore

Arrested Development aired for three low-rated seasons on FOX before getting canceled in 2006. Five years later, Netflix licensed the sitcom on their emerging streaming service and commissioned new episodes. A 15-episode fourth season premiered in May 2013, and was among the first Netflix originals. Netflix would later order a 22-episode “remixed” season to air in 2018, followed by a fifth and final season that aired in both 2018 and 2019.

Five years after its finale, it appears the buzz has simmered on the sitcom, which enjoyed a cult following throughout its run and critical acclaim during the FOX years (as in, a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for Seasons 1 and 3). It’s no wonder Netflix originally planned on removing it from their service in 2023, before ultimately extending it to 2026. Once the time comes, Arrested Development won’t be missed by many. It averaged just over 65,000 views per episode from July through December 2023, with the Netflix revival seasons performing significantly worse in Views than the FOX seasons.  

4. It’s No Wonder Netflix Doesn’t Revive More Broadcast Shows 

Netflix is known for giving a platform to several broadcast shows. Many of these shows had either already ended at the time they became popular on the streaming service, or were part of The CW’s streaming deal. Despite many fan campaigns to save a canceled series, there are very few instances of a broadcast network canceling a show, only for Netflix to swoop in and order another season. These viewership figures may help explain why. With views typically declining as seasons progress, there quickly comes a point where it’s not worth it for Netflix to keep ordering more seasons. Plus, they could be prioritizing shows they own over shows hailing from outside studios. Designated Survivor’s continuation only lasted one season due to cast contracts, and none of the other shows Netflix saved made it more than two additional seasons. It simply doesn’t make sense for Netflix to keep saving broadcast TV shows looking at these numbers, with the few exceptions being shows with devoted audiences that could bring in new subscribers. For example, Lucifer was the #1 show on Netflix among JustWatch users in 2023, even besting their flagship original series Stranger Things.

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