Netflix curse looms as "the top show in the world" circles cancelled drain

For Netflix, popularity isn't the only thing that matters when it comes to commissioning more seasons

Netflix TV series The Sandman
(Image credit: Netflix)

If you're an industry outsider like me, it seems pretty obvious that Netflix should commission a second series of The Sandman.

It's the most popular Netflix show in the world right now, it's getting brilliant reviews, it's delighting even the most hardcore The Sandman fans and it even managed to win over an avowed fantasy-hater like me.

The Sandman is fast, it's funny, it's very exciting and it's one of the most beautiful shows on TV right now. In fact, it's the sort of show people sign up to the best streaming services for.

The show is also very expensive to make – a reported $15 million per episode – but that's not the only reason why Netflix hasn't yet announced – and might not ever announce – plans to make a second season.

Netflix sci-fi TV show The Sandman

(Image credit: Netflix)

For Netflix, viewing figures are only part of the picture

We can all think of great series that Netflix cancelled just as they were hitting their stride, including some that were clearly pretty cheap to make. And that's because the cost of production isn't the only thing Netflix cares about. Viewing figures are important, of course. But what's even more important to Netflix is completion rates: how many people watched till the end, and how quickly did they do it?

According to Sandman creator Neil Gaiman, "we’ve been the top show in the world for the last two weeks. That may not be enough." Gaiman urged viewers to binge the series if they want to see more, saying "they are looking at 'completion rates'. So people watching it at their own pace don't show up." Netflix won't publicly comment on its decision-making process, of course, but it's clear that shows where everybody binges everything in the first few weeks are the ones most likely to be renewed; slow burners are more likely to face the chop.

I do hope The Sandman gets a second series, because it's the kind of ambitious and exciting storytelling we could do with more of. But the focus not just on viewing numbers but how fast people binge raises some interesting issues for showrunners and other creators: are we heading for a streaming landscape that resembles the matinee films of our childhoods, where every episode has to end with a cliff-hanger?

Tune in next week to find out!

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (