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Why Netflix Saved ‘Manifest’ and What It Means for Other Shows

Jeff Kotuby

Could Netflix’s recommendations tabs have affected its decision to pick up Manifest?

Parrot Analytics recently reported on Netflix's decision to save Manifest from cancellation. Jeff Rake’s supernatural drama aired for two seasons on NBC and was canceled in June amidst a fan backlash, begging someone to save the show. Netflix stepped in to save the show and renewed it for a fourth and final season. But, as Parrot Analytics discovered, Netflix’s decision to pick up the show may have to do with Manifest’s fan support — and its corresponding impact on the bottom line.


September 24, 2018

After landing from a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers of Montego Air Flight 828 discover five years have passed in what seemed like a few hours. As their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds and some of the returned passengers soon realize they may be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible.

Once the show was canceled, its consumer demand ranking throughout the U.S. rose over 300 spots to #13 in the country. “Manifest stayed within the Top 10 trending row for weeks on end,” Parrot explained. “It became a surefire hit on Netflix, much like The Office and Friends before it. Unlike The Office and Friends, however, there was potential for Netflix to take on the series as an original title, with full global distribution just like other in-demand Netflix Originals and finish the show to give newcomers and current fans a series to watch in its entirety — something that’s become much rarer in television. Viewers want shows to end, and end properly.”

Even Netflix’s announcement was done with the fans in mind, as it announced Season 4 on 8/28 day, a series of numbers that figure heavily into the series’ lore.

Parrot also found that Manifest fans would also watch shows like Legacies, The Flash, The Blacklist, and Supergirl — all four of which stream on Netflix. As Netflix seems to constantly bombard us with “Recommendations for you” and “Since you Watchd (X Movie Here)” tabs before, during, and after watching something, it makes sense for Netflix to grab a show that would fit perfectly into its existing library.

This point is key. Netflix has a ton of data about its users and what they want to watch. Every time they hit on a Bridgerton or Tiger King, they expand their formula for a successful show. If Manifest viewers only watched Manifest, Netflix would not have given it a renewal. But since Manifest pleases fans of shows that already get a lot of Netflix engagement, it lives.

How Streaming Services Decide Whether or Not to Save a Show — According to Parrot

When approaching the subject of saving a show from cancellation, Parrot said the following.

“There are a few essential questions that players in the space need to answer before determining whether or not to acquire the rights to a series that someone else has decided no longer works for them,” Parrot said.

  1. Does the cost of investing in another season, or multiple seasons, come with a confident bet on return as seen through available data?
  2. Does the show fulfill a need that a streaming service requires to acquire subscribers or lower churn rates?
  3. Does the acquisition come with the entire suite of previous seasons for global distribution?
  4. What is the overall longevity of the acquisition?

Parrot says that the answers to Manifest’s questions were easy “Yeses” because it's only airing for one more, hyper-packed season, rather than presenting a situation where it wants to hang on for 3-4 more years. Parrot also mentions Lucifer as a show that Netflix saved that’s turned into a monster hit for the platform. Netflix is hoping Manifest does the same.

Season 4 of Manifest is slated to air on Netflix at an unknown date.

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