Netflix is having a difficult time of it at the moment. After recording its first dip in subscriber numbers in over a decade, the company appears to be facing a reckoning with the sheer quantity of expensive, original shows it creates.
In 2022 alone, nine have already been cancelled, and now it appears the cutbacks extend to high-profile programming yet to even hit the service — even if the producer happens to be Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Deadline reports that Pearl — the working title of an animated series of which Markle was executive producer — has been dropped by Netflix before it even exited its development phase.
The show would have followed 12-year-old girl Pearl as she sought inspiration from “extraordinary women” from history.
“Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges,” Markle said when introducing the concept when it was announced last summer. It was one of many programs in the works from Archewell Productions — the studio set up by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to create original programming for Netflix.
Deadline says insiders claim there’s still “bullishness” on the Archewell deal, and this isn’t indicative of the relationship breaking down, or of a company suddenly dropping everything. Though the site notes that Netflix had been advising producers to take previously prioritized productions elsewhere “even before recent events.”
Analysis: is Netflix finally putting quality over quantity?
The Deadline piece argues that Netflix’s ‘movie a week’ strategy isn’t a sustainable one even when growth is high. An approach adopted to try and defend the company against the loss of its licensed content to other upstart streaming services, it has resulted in an awful lot of premature cancellations. In 2022 alone: Space Force, Raising Dion, Pretty Smart, On The Verge, The Baby-Sitters Club, Archive 81, Another Life, Gentefied and Cooking with Paris.
This latest pre-emptive cancellation, Deadline suggests, is a sign that the company is taking control of its catalog. “It is just unreasonable to expect its execs to manage that many projects, and have enough of them turn out to be memorable,” the site reasons, adding that we should expect more selectivity in future.
For me, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. The problem with the current scattergun approach, and subsequent inevitable cancellations, is that shows don’t really get a chance to bed in as the company ruthlessly pursues instant results.
That’s a problem, not just because history is littered with legendary shows that didn’t find their groove for years (Seinfeld and The Office to name just two), but because fans can’t trust the platform not to rudely end a show they’re enjoying without a satisfying conclusion.
I wouldn’t take a chance on settling into a new Netflix show at the moment — would you? Fewer, better funded programs with longer lead-in times to make sure they’re ready for showtime is a far better model, to my mind.
But that’s my view as just one subscriber — and a light user, at that. Whether hardcore customers who absorb everything the service has to offer takes the same view is something that could make or break Netflix in the years to come.