Animated shows deserve better treatment from streaming services


On Jan. 8, executive producer and creator Shion Takeuchi announced that the Netflix original series “Inside Job” was canceled months after Part 1 of season one. This came as a shock to viewers, who expressed their frustration with Netflix’s inability to continue shows that they have grown to love.  

Key art for “Inside Job.” Contributed graphic by Netflix.

The show’s cancellation has brought up the recent trend of the streaming platform choosing to not renew many original series. Other animated series like “The Midnight Gospel,” “Dead End: Paranormal Park” and “Q-Force” were canceled within the past year. How could so many shows not reach the ending the creators thought they deserved, especially a show like “Inside Job” that had just reached mainstream popularity?

Netflix executive Bela Bajaria offers somewhat of an answer in an interview with The New Yorker. The algorithm picks up on how much viewers watch, and the first 28 days of a show’s release are the most crucial. When a show does not perform at a certain rate, it’s less likely to be renewed.  

“At some point, it’s like: ‘Is the budget better spent on the next new thing?’” Bajaria said. 

While data is crucial for streaming platforms to determine if shows are good investments, there is so much more that could determine success. “Inside Job” has an incredibly active fanbase across platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Part 2 amassed 21,240,000 hours during its release in 2021, charting in Netflix’s global top 10.

Yet, Netflix wants shows to perform at the same rates as “Stranger Things,” “You” and “Bridgerton.” It’s hard to reach those numbers when shows are killed off so quickly. 

Netflix isn’t the only platform that seems to be canceling animated content. After the Warner-Discovery merger, HBO Max has been recognized for doing the same, but for different reasons. Shows like “Craig of the Creek” and even the promising “The Amazing World of Gumball” movie faced cancellation, along with a multitude of kid-centric animated projects that were still in production. Why get rid of all of this content? Tax write-offs. 

In August 2022, Warner Brothers confirmed in a Variety interview that 36 titles would be removed from HBO Max prior to the merger, including 20 HBO Originals that were determined to be “lesser-watched programs.” A majority of these cuts were animated content. Since then, more titles have joined the list in an attempt to reduce costs and avoid paying royalties.

Animated media seemingly has a bleak future on streaming services. It already is commonly viewed as only for children due to Disney dominating the animation industry and is constantly ignored by award shows.  For a while, most animated content for children lacked respect for their intelligence. Adult animated content typically fits into a specific niche of raunchy, slightly offensive humor. However, animated shows are so much more than that. 

Key art for “Craig of the Creek.” Contributed graphic by Warner Media.

There’s room for diversity and original stories for all audiences. Recent strides include Luz and Amity’s lesbian relationship in “The Owl House,” Barney being openly transgender in “Dead End: Paranormal Park” and the massively diverse cast in “Craig of The Creek.” Animated shows like these have opened the door for more shows to increase their diversity in ways that feel authentic, giving people a chance to feel properly represented. 

Noticeably, shows that pride themselves on diversity and inclusion are the most impacted by mergers and cancellations. The Warner-Discovery merger was meant to give these corporations more room to compete in the market, but prior to its approval, members of Congress voiced concerns about diverse content being disproportionately affected in the process. These concerns sadly went on to be proven true.

An even greater concern is streaming platforms appealing to monoculture. Netflix particularly prioritizes shows with mass appeal in order to draw in a broad audience, but fails to support niche categories of content, which many diverse and/or animated shows fall under. Instead, its executives would rather invest in one monocultural show that they want everyone to watch, instead of multiple shows that resonate with smaller audiences.

Animated shows have proven that they can perform well and make a profit, but in the eyes of corporations, it’s not enough. These series aren’t able to grow when they’re constantly under the looming threat of being canceled. If streaming services took on a different approach, animated series could have a promising future. There would be an influx of original stories that didn’t initially have room to be told.

However, Netflix co-CEOs Greg Peters and Ted Sarandos justified this stance on cancellations in a Bloomberg interview, claiming that Netflix has “never canceled a successful show.” They doubled down by suggesting that some shows have too big of a budget for how small the audience is. This comes across as cocky and condescending, as Netflix has been criticized repeatedly for its practices going against most consumers’ wishes. 

With the current trend of mass cancellations, streaming services could anticipate losing subscribers. Netflix particularly risks losing its title as the leading streaming service. Its executives revealed in a New York Times interview that the platform lost 200,000 subscribers in Q1 2022 and almost a million in Q2 2022. While they were able to recover, practices like raising prices, introducing ads and ending password sharing may worsen the situation. 

These services can continue chasing their next big hit for as long as they want to, but the more they chase large profits over consistency, the less likely they will be able to retain a base for creators and consumers alike. 

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Elise Palmer
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