Netflix users are gaming viewing stats to save a show from cancellation

Tamar prepares to fight Kirigan's army in Shadow and Bone season 2
(Image credit: David Lukacs/Netflix)

How far would you go to ensure the latest season of your favorite show won't be its last on Netflix? How many times could you watch it, for the common good?

In a streaming landscape where brilliant shows are often canceled before they’ve had a chance to grow their audience, fans are starting to catch on to the metrics that determine a show’s fate – and it’s coming to a head with the release of Shadow & Bone season 2, as fans desperately replay the season’s episodes in a bid to boost its viewer numbers and convince Netflix to push ahead with future seasons.

As reported by Rolling Stone, Shadow & Bone’s online fandom has launched a preemptive operation to save the fantasy show, with leading fan accounts and Reddit communities hosting all-night watch parties and pushing related hashtags on social media to keep up engagement. Viewers are even being told to replay episodes in the background with their Netflix muted, just to up the viewer count.

Shadow & Bone’s second season was greenlit rather quickly after the show’s debut, but fans have good reason to be skittish, with some of the best Netflix shows like First Kill, Warrior Nun, or Fate: The Winx Saga that were culled before their time – despite each having sizable fandoms. 

Shadow & Bone opening to the number two slot on Netflix’s viewership charts counts for little in such a cut-throat environment; it increasingly looks like you need to be The Witcher or a real-estate reality show for any kind of long-term security on the platform.

Closed for business

Netflix was once seen as a savior for shows that wouldn’t easily get funded on other, more traditional networks, which made it the best streaming service for a long time. But while we’ve seen surging growth in TV adaptations of young-adult and fantasy title, a tightening of the belt by Netflix execs means that shows often get canceled after an initial season.

The all-important metric seems to be how much Netflix subscribers engage with a show in its first 28 day – a metric that effectively relies on a big box office opening, without much patience for shows that have smaller, but dedicated fandoms or might gain a following in a more slow-burn fashion.

To viewers, it looks like Netflix is playing a rather transactional numbers game – so it’s unsurprising to see fans try to game the system in whatever way they can.

On the one hand, it’s lovely to see such passion for the work that creatives have put into the show – especially in the midst of Writer’s Guild Strikes across the US, as writers push for higher salary floors, and changes to the way residuals are paid for work on streamed shows (which has also caused some issues with Netflix fans). Regardless of what the end metrics end up being, we hope Netflix takes notice of the committed fandom Shadow & Bone has.

On the other hand, fans really shouldn’t have to artificially inflate viewer metrics to ensure the survival of a popular show. It really speaks to the uncertainty of streaming, and of Netflix's reputation in particular, that fans – who should be enjoying the new season – are in a state of panic instead.

If you want to see some Netflix shows that got cancelled, but that are still worth watching, check out our list.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.