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Report: HBO Max, Disney+ Cancel Fewest New Series; Why Streamers Approach Renewals in Different Ways

David Satin

We’ve all been there. You’re blasting through episodes of your new favorite streaming show when suddenly you hit the wall. Not a self-imposed wall where you can’t stand to look at your screen for one more second; rather, the wall of no more episodes being available because the series has been canceled.

A new report from The Wrap shows which streaming services are the worst offenders when it comes to cancelations, and the results may come as a surprise to many streaming users, especially those who primarily watch content on HBO Max and Netflix.

The service that cancels the most new series in the streaming industry is Hulu. Hulu canceled roughly 32% of new series on its service that debuted in 2021 or 2022. As a general entertainment streaming service that has to throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks with users, this is not especially surprising, but it does highlight the challenges that Hulu faces in retaining customers with tentpole original shows.

The report also found that Netflix and HBO Max renew freshman series at some of the highest rates in the industry. HBO Max renewed 78% of shows that debuted in the last two years, second only to BET+ in that time. Netflix renews series at the fifth-highest rate of all streamers, with over 27% of its new series getting a second season on the service. Only 11% of Netflix’s new series from 2021 and 2022 were officially canceled after their first seasons. Of course, Netflix is a bit of a different situation than every other service, as the world’s largest streamer just puts out so many more titles every year than its competitors, the raw numbers of canceled shows might be the most, but the percentages aren’t.

The differences between services highlight where their different parent companies stand as each tries to determine the best path toward profitability. HBO Max, for example, is focused on the success of originals like “House of the Dragon” and “The Last of Us.” The service has seen myriad high-profile content cuts in the last year, but many of those shows have been older series, like “Westworld,” that could be licensed to third-party streamers.

Disney+, which renewed new series at a rate of just under 70%, may see its output rate change in the next few years. Disney is planning to reduce its content spend on expensive franchises like Marvel in the next few years, including its budget for streaming superhero series. The company is currently in the midst of evaluating all facets of its streaming business to find savings, and the reckless content spends of old in the name of hoarding new subscribers are gone.

For Netflix, it’s much more of a “steady-as-she-goes” strategy when it comes to content cuts. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos riled users’ feathers in late January when he stated that the company has “never canceled a successful show,” which is somewhat borne out by the fact that out of the 302 new titles debuting on the service in 2021 and 2022, only 32 were outright canceled; although others are still waiting for word on a second season.

In the end, every streaming service has a different reason for why they cancel shows. From complex algorithms related to hours spent streaming and customer retention to shifts in corporate philosophies, there are many potential reasons for a show to leave a platform. Cancelations will continue as the industry makes its shift toward profitability, but thanks to The Wrap, we can at least see which services have been the worst offenders in canceling series thus far.


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