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Netflix and its dilemma between popular and good content


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Netflix and its dilemma between popular and good content

Emily in Paris announced its renewal for seasons three and four less than a month after Netflix released season two. Actor Lily Collins, who plays Emily, announced the news on her Instagram beginning of January.

Despite not being renowned for its groundbreaking plot or acting performances, to everyone’s surprise, the show received a Golden Globes nomination earlier in 2021.

The show even exploits obvious clichés – hypersexualization of the French and infidelity, American Protagonist mocking at foreign culture, the African French gay friend, and a WOC best friend whose only purpose is to play the lead character’s ‘hype girl’. Emily’s character was even deemed unlikable, owing to her egocentric behaviour and microaggressions. Despite all this, why did Netflix renew the show’s contract for a third and fourth time?

Emily in Paris revolves around protagonist Emily Cooper, a marketing executive in Chicago hired by a Parisian marketing firm to provide an American perspective on their strategies. The show is akin to the acclaimed Sex and the City series, except it’s one white woman instead of four navigating through the ‘mishappenings and impediments’. However, unlike SATC, Emily in Paris hasn’t managed to become a cult classic. It is a one-time watch – unless it’s your guilty pleasure.

The show is neither controversial enough to be ‘so bad, it’s good’ nor outstanding on its own. It is a show which, without the ample promotions and campaigning, would’ve missed viewers’ eyes. While season two received better ratings, it was too soon to announce the upcoming seasons without prior planning. Indiewire even calls it ‘pure escapism’ and that ‘it’s a bearable viewing experience. But don’t look for anything deeper.’ They assigned season two a grade C.

Netflix, as of October 2021, was worth $289.09 billion. Despite being a streaming platform, Netflix has commissioned its own shows and movies – Netflix Originals – and have won several critically acclaimed awards. Similar to any other tech giant, Netflix is data-driven and recommends movies and shows based on user analytics and algorithms.  

Netflix scrutinizes user activity very carefully before suggesting titles for users to watch. There are no random suggestions for any inconsistency that can lead to users losing interest and ultimately canceling their accounts. Some users even alleged that Netflix uses racially-biased image promos to attract users.

However, users are likely to binge-watch one show from the ‘Top 10 today’ list simply because it is popular. Since Netflix is more of a light-hearted entertainment channel, very few enthusiasts use the platform to watch independent movies. In 2020, 80% of the most-watched original series in the US belonged to Netflix, which means users are likely to watch the more popular content over niche ones. Even in India, foreign content on Netflix outnumbers local content. It is also no surprise that 7 out of 10 from the ‘Top 10 today in India’ list happen to be Netflix Originals. Among this sea of original content, it is easy for Netflix to slip in a mediocre show and win awards, let alone receive little to no backlash. 

Netflix has, in the past, renewed contracts with several shows and movies that had bad or average ratings otherwise.

On their websiteNetflix explains, ‘Though we strive to keep the titles you want to watch, some titles do leave Netflix because of licensing agreements.’ According to their policies, shows and movies leave the platform based on whether the rights to the title are still available, how popular the content was and how much it cost and seasonal and regional factors. 

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Here are some shows Netflix cancelled to accommodate more “trending” ones:

  1. 6 seasons of Riverdale over GLOW Season 4

    Netflix renewed the Teen drama/mystery/horror/dystopian show with impossible subplots for six seasons. The fourth season of a women-led show about wrestling that also boasted a very diverse cast was cancelled. The former has an IMDb rating of 6.7/10 while the latter has 8/10.

    Instagram | @thecwriverdale & @glownetflix
  2. Sex, Love and Goop over season 7 of Bojack Horseman

    Even after facing a lot of backlash for Goop’s overload of pseudoscience, the wellness and lifestyle brand now has its own show and an IMDb rating of 46/10.
    Netflix didn’t renew Bojack Horseman for a seventh season, despite its popularity and an IMDb rating of 8.7/10.

    Netflix | Instagram @bojackhorseman
  3. 4 seasons of 13 Reasons Why over season 2 of The Get Down

    Another teen show, 13 Reasons Why came to a “natural end” after four seasons.  The show was also accused of glamourizing suicide. Netflix shut down The Get Down, a hip-hop musical and one of  their most expensive projects after season one due to production delays and other reasons. The former has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 35% while the latter has 81%.

    Instagram | @13reasonswhy & @thegetdownnetflix
  4. Hype House over season 2 of I Am Not Okay With This

    Hype House is a reality show revolving around social media influencers – Tiktok in particular and has an IMDb rating of 2.1/10. Netflix cancelled I Am Not Okay With This after season one ‘because of covid’, despite the show’s IMDb rating of 7.5.

    Instagram | @thehypehousela & @iamnotokaywiththis
  5.  3 seasons of Too Hot to Handle over 6 seasons of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj

    Netflix’s reality show about maintaining celibacy to win a $100,000 cash prize has released 3 seasons but cancelled Comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show discussing the modern political landscape in depth after six seasons. Too Hot to Handle has an IMDb score of 4.6/10 while the latter has 8.2/10.

Instagram | @toohotnetflix & @patriotact

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