3 Seasons on a Streaming Service

Posted by Thoughts and Ramblings on Tuesday, October 10, 2023

When The Expanse was cancelled on the SYFY channel, I somewhat expected it as it was too good for that network (I was shocked something so good was ever on that channel in the first place). Then when I found out it was picked up by Amazon, I had mixed feelings. While it meant the show would continue, it also meant that it would not persist for more than 3 additional seasons. I really wanted to see a Magnetar class ship on the screen but alas it was not meant to be. So, with a few exceptions, why is it that a show doesn’t persist more than 3 seasons on a streaming service?

I don’t have any inside knowledge as to what happens but one can make a pretty good guess from looking at the content on streaming services and how long it lasts.

The 2019 reboot of The Twilight Zone ran for only 2 seasons. Half of the episodes in the first season were horrible. Most people I know stuck it out for whole season in the hopes that it would get better but it didn’t. So the viewership for the first season likely comprised of those who were curious about a reboot of a classic show but they didn’t turn into loyal viewers. Then the second season came out and people I know mostly didn’t bother. Ironically, the second season was much better than the first but I only know that because a friend and I reluctantly decided to give it another try. I don’t know anyone else who watched it. From this small window into the viewership, I can conclude that few watched the second season. This translates to lower viewership that likely crossed the threshold to not warrant a third season.

This can be extended to other shows on streaming services. A large number of people binge watch the first season, and then there is a loss of viewers in each subsequent season until it drops below the point where the streaming service will continue to pay for it. Sometimes a show can be on the edge and get a truncated last season instead of not having that season at all. One can see that the only series that remain for longer than 3 seasons are those that are consistently popular.

Much of this can be the factor of choice. I know several who stopped watching a show after a season or two due to having other things to watch. One start watching show X, finishes the first season, and then has to wait to watch the next. Then one hears about another show, watches it, repeat. When show X has another season, the memory of the first season has faded. So this faded memory must compete with the next shiny thing (show) and it’s hard to compete with the new.

So now we are left with a set of shows which never reach full conclusion unless they are very popular or were written with an arc of only 3 seasons. This leaves us with a bunch of shows with partial endings that don’t fully satisfy as I wrote about in my previous post