As most people know, on June 1st, Netflix decided not to renew Sense8. Fans of the Wachowski Sisters + J Michael Straczynski show, a show that weaves a global narrative to tell a very human story of eight people sharing their minds, knowledge, and empathy, were devastated that the story would not have a third season. Many knew that it only had one more season of story, but Netflix decided not to renew. Then the fanbase rallied and wrote and tweeted and called out! and helped show-writers garner a 2 hour special for Sense8! Amazing!
I am so happy that we get 2 hours to wrap up Sense8, and don’t take this blogpost here as less than gratitude for that 2 hours. But I’d like to make a bigger case for you–a case you haven’t heard–about giving Sense8 a whole season based on what might be good for Netflix, not just for fans.
While there has been speculation as to why the show was not renewed, that’s speculation. Netflix spends a lot of money trying to find hit series, and sometimes a good series doesn’t find the right market. When the cancellation happened, there was plenty of anger towards Netflix, and, in the moment, I even threatened to dump Netflix. But I love Stranger Things, and I watch Star Trek, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc. It would be hard for me to dump Netflix for good. I know, they’re counting on that–they’ve made us LOVE this service. Okay.
Instead of eight negative reasons to renew Sense8, I want to give 8 positive reasons to renew Sense8 for a whole last season. I want to give them something they can go to the marketing table with and say—“Let’s do one more season.” (Please especially consider #7)
Ultimately, right decisions aren’t made because of negative consequences but because the positive consequences are stronger. We aren’t charitable because of Fear of Hell or Fear of Bad Publicity. We are charitable because we want to help.
Why Netflix Would Want to Complete a Third Season of Sense8
1. NETFLIX IS COMMITTED TO COMPLETION: Sense8 has exactly ONE more season. It’s a three season arc. You renew that last season, you are a hero, and the story is complete, and people bingewatch the three seasons for years afterwards on Netflix. They will come to Netflix for those three seasons. You’re not having to commit to an unknown number of seasons, or risking anything AFTER this season. You already committed two seasons and they were amazing, and fans loved them, and they are almost home-free. You create NEW fans by following through on your series. But MORE people will become afraid to watch or commit to a new series if the series could be cancelled before it’s finished. The more unfinished series, the more Netflix becomes untrustworthy for a new viewer. The positive spin: you complete series, and they can be assured that when they watch a series on Netflix, especially with the millions of fans this series has created, that it will have closure–that series runners will know ahead of time that their series must establish closure. This one is close to being finished.
2. NETFLIX EDUCATES ITS VIEWERSHIP ABOUT VIEWERSHIP. You teach Netflix viewers about Viewership using Sense8. Part of the shock of this announcement was that viewers thought that their fan base was enough. We don’t get to watch the Viewership numbers like you do, so we can’t tell when to rally, or how we’re doing, or if we’re about to fall. It’s a bit unfair to a very large group of fans to say that their numbers are not enough. What kinds of viewership help make your decisions? Do you need a certain number every week? And how do you calculate when you drop 10 episodes over a weekend? How many times should we view it? How many tweets do you need? How many blogposts analyzing the show? If you give us those numbers, WE CAN HELP SAVE THE SHOWS WE LOVE. I guarantee that the fanbase for Sense8 is the most dedicated fan base you’ve ever had (more on that below). But telling us to love a show and then, when it’s not good enough, taking it from us without telling us how to celebrate and support it correctly can be very bad in the long run–it leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths. Netflix needs to teach its viewers what matters to save a show–how can we love a show enough to keep it if we don’t know what you need? If not, fans won’t try a show till a second season is guaranteed…or may just not try it unless you do what you did with The Crown, and guarantee 6 seasons to tell that arc.
3. NETFLIX DEFINES ITSELF BROADLY, NOT JUST ANOTHER COMEDY CENTRAL: Okay, we understand that money is a bottom line and that Amy Schumer stand-up specials, Adam Sandler movies, and comedy series make money. They make TONS of money. So go be another Comedy Central, and you’ll be happy, right? You saved Trailer Park Boys from cancellation on another network and gave it more seasons–8, 9, 10, and specials… You gave Bojack Horseman 4 seasons and Fuller House 3 seasons. The Ranch, star-studded as it is, looks fairly humdrum, but it’s a comedy, and it will do okay enough for three seasons. But you also put 6 seasons of $120 million a season on The Crown, and $60 Million a season on House of Cards, and $40 million on Orange is the New Black. You took risks on The Get Down and Hemlock Grove, and you are committed to Marvel, even when Iron Fist reviews are dismal. Sense8 is an audience underserved in the whole of the TV market. Doing one more season of Sense8 covers that audience, but also shows that series that take risks in talking about gender and sexuality are welcome. Do another The Ranch, or another Amy Schumer special to cover costs of a Sense8, but cancelling series that don’t get viewership may make Netflix more and more a comedy station…. it will not be the place to take risks, or the place for viewers to take risks.
4. NETFLIX HONORS SMALL FAN BASES: Some shows, some audiences are inherently smaller. However, Sense8 audiences are in very few senses of the word, small. The series was doing fantastic in Brazil, in Europe, in the US, in Australia! It has a global reach because it has a global storyline. Are these viewers more numerous than those for Trailer Park Boys? Maybe not. Maybe they are smaller. But if you rank only your large viewerships as reasons to produce series, you’ll end up homogenous, and most likely comedic. You want to be a Streaming Service for Everyone— so you’re going to need to represent well, even when the numbers don’t get as high as you want. Otherwise, you’ll fail to be what you want to be. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are two sides of the same coin: criminals out free to hurt the public, and decent people in jail who are trying to survive. Underwood will end up in jail; some of the women in OitnB will hopefully end up free. With Sense8, you have a global hit on your hands–it’s even pirated half a million times in multiple countries because they are desperate for this series! Fix the pirating, yes, but see the devoted expansive fan base. We may be small, but you need small fan bases of 2 million too.
5. NETFLIX IS GLOBAL. Netflix wants a Fan base that is worldwide. Sense8 has a fan base that is world wide. This show is not just an American based show like most of your other shows. It spans the globe. And while “globe-trotting” has been used against it because of the budget, it should be used FOR it since Netflix is a global presence and it seeks to have a global audience but not one of its shows travels and shows the globe as much as Sense8. It is your flagship of the globalization of story. It does more for you than you know, as it gives everyone the idea that not all American based production companies have a limited, or slanted, interpretation of other countries, and that everything doesn’t revolve around the US. Viewers see that, your Japanese and Brazilian and European viewers see themselves reflected in the storylines and the casting choices of Sense8. That’s important to keep–because the message that sends is that Netflix itself is global. Netflix has the perspective of the whole globe, not just an American perspective. If you want that viewership in other countries, a show like Sense8 is your bridge.
6. NETFLIX HONORS LGBT FAN BASES: Just helping to create this show, you have already secured a loyal love of LGBT fans who know that you can also create other shows or allow other LGBT shows to be made. As long as you don’t create and then abandon, that is. We are inherently a small group, maybe as much as 15% or 20%. But you don’t want to go with numbers because other minorities would be struggling to be heard too and then you would end up being the white, straight network, because that’s where the numbers are. You are committed to the broad tastes of consumers, and giving each of them content they love. You say as much on your site.
Content People Love
In 2017, we expect to spend over $6B on a P&L basis on content for our members. In addition we’ll spend over $1B on marketing in 2017, getting people so excited about our content that they join Netflix.
People’s tastes are very broad, even in a single market. The internet allows us to offer a wide variety, and to have our user interface quickly learn and make recommendations based upon individual users’ tastes. Those members who love action blockbusters, Korean soaps, anime, sci-fi, Sundance films, zombie shows, or kids cartoons will find that Netflix fills their homepage with relevant and interesting titles.
So it’s wide variety of viewers with a wide variety of tastes that you want, and
By personalizing promotion of the right content to the right member, we have a large opportunity to promote our original content, one that’s effectively unlimited in duration.
So if you want to keep appealing to that wide base, finish LGBT projects too (or give green lit shows a year to prove, and then grant them the number of seasons it might take to tell their story). You did that with the Crown. Funding Sense8, you gave us a show that finally treats us with respect and dignity and goes beyond what so many other series have done. We are not confined to the “gay best friend” on a straight person’s show. We are not relegated to “boyfriend shopping” or a Sex-in-the-City type show about dating. We are treated as full-fledged human beings, capable of starring in thrillers, science fiction, dramas that don’t just rely on our unique sexualities, but don’t shy away from them either.
The show is as diverse as the world. While Lito’s coming out is a main plot for him, it is not the main plot for the show. The show actually covers political leadership in Nigeria, family drama and corporate corruption in South Korea, drug families controlling Germany, and the Mexican film industry. This show is MORE than LGBT, but because it is more than LGBT, it achieves what most LGBT dream of: a seamless integration into the fabric of human life, a recognition that we are a part of the whole. We don’t want to be the whole, and we don’t want to be absent, but that fine line is very difficult and the Wachowskis and JMS walk that line so beautifully! This show appeals to more than just an LGBT base, but it does that because it respects its LGBT base.
7. NETFLIX KNOWS IT CAN RELY ON ITS FAN BASE TO HELP. We’ve just shown you what we can do to ask for a show back—and you’ve been so kind to give us a 2 hour ending. However, if you can rally millions to bring back a show—you could also give us the opportunity to help FUND the last season. I know, it’s unusual, but take a page from Patreon and Kickstarter. Why not have a final season paid for in part from viewers? Charge us $10 bucks for 10 episodes. Let us be the Cluster we want to be. Ten dollars from millions of people would at least help with the cost. We would be able to download the episodes for $1 a piece or just pay $10 up front. Which would defray the cost of the series. We love this series so much–we would do this. Or you could ask us to donate via Patreon–or make it so that some of us, those with $10 can help out those who may not have it and still want to see the show.
This could be a new model for you with series. When greenlit, a series gets a first season, maybe a second, and then if you think you want to cut it because viewership is down—you ask the fans if they’d be willing to go all Patreon for a last season. If they say yes, then you grant a last season and let people pay for that third season. It’s an alternative to just axing a series. This way you know which series people would be willing to pay extra for. Heck, other cable channels have a pay-per-view for special things. I know, you may get kick-back from those who say, “Oh, you know you can make the fans pay and you’re targeting minorities.” But if the series is good, but expensive, we could enter into a contract with you, together. This way, by having us answer your question over whether we would pay, we would have a choice over whether to have just two seasons, or that third blessed season. Without the possibility of helping to fund our favorite show, we end up with nothing. What a cooperative model you would have if third seasons relied on fans assistance.
8. NETFLIX TELLS GOOD STORIES WITH A MESSAGE. Finally, as you’ve heard everywhere on the net for the last two months, this show has a great message, unlike most shows. You want to be associated with shows that have not only dramatic appeal, well-written characters, but also a good message. Global cooperation vs. Global Competition is a message for 2017. Working with each other is a strong message. Accepting yourself and others, a strong message. Not going for revenge, a good message. This show is not only positive for LGBT, but it is positive for what it means to be human. In a time when humanity is not showing its best side—with people wanting to break away from others rather than share together–in an age when climate change and globalization asks us to think of ourselves on a shared world, we need a Sense8.
This show is a global education for its viewers, showing other cultures, and how we are entwined. For Americans especially, we can be so narrow-minded and insular. For English-speaking countries, we can be panicked at losing control of the GDP, of leading the world in business, and we can be frightened of strong countries around the world. We should not be fearing Latin America or India or Korea or the Arab Emirates. We should be learning about them, and partnering with them. The world is no longer just England, three countries in Europe, China, Japan, Russia and the US. We need to be expanding our idea of humanity, of togetherness, of shared global responsibility if we are to take on the crises coming up.
It teaches us about kindness, and every opportunity that a viewer suspects we’ll get rejection or rage or lose something, the writers surprise us with kindness and forgiveness. We need more empathy and kindness in this world. I know Story will give us that.
I believe in this show, and I believe in the Heart of Netflix, and that funding this show, or helping to create this show–even with MY funding– is in the best interest of Netflix, and is in the best interest of the world we’d like to have.
Sense8’s opening is perhaps the greatest montage of understanding how similar humans are around the planet–even in our infinite diversity. Seeing each other as human is the first step in treating others humanely. This show does so much good for the viewer–educates, creates empathy, gives knowledge, shows real issues in each country. It asks the viewer to come together into a cluster, because really that’s the nature of humanity. Thousands of clusters in a giant cluster.