Save ‘Shadowhunters’: The Netflix play
Last year was especially brutal for television fans and bingewatchers. Seemingly safe in the knowledge that our favorite shows had secure second homes on streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, cancellation season was just as harsh as ever, with many examples of stellar TV getting cut from networks.
We’re standing with these epic shows that were gone but not forgotten in hopes of saving the shows we know deserve a second chance on the right network. We started working to raise awareness of the shows that need saving with our #SaveSaturdays campaign – but desperate times call for desperate measures.
So we decided to up the ante and work every day to save our shows. Our conservative days are over – let’s join together to take activist measures to keep the stories we need on our screens.
Shadowhunters is smart, witty, and suspenseful, and has a diverse set of unique characters (with plenty of LGBTQI representation), making it a one-of-a-kind show that doesn’t deserve cancellation.
Within and outside the fandom over the past few months, there’s been a lot of speculation about how Netflix might save Shadowhunters. Today we’re looking into the potential ways Netflix could save our show and the activist steps we can take to make the choice easy for them.
Now onto some truth. Shadowhunters was apparently cancelled because Freeform could no longer “make the economics work” after Netflix severed its relationship with the German production company, Constantin Film.
We’ve seen for a while that Netflix has been polishing its cancellation axe, systematically chopping well-loved shows such as Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and One Day at a Time from the platform for fiduciary reasons.
The business of big streaming
One of the main things Netflix brings to Hollywood is autonomy away from the financially complicated and flabby studio system. As an independent producer, they’ve been able to make complex financial decisions more freely, as they don’t have the longlasting, legally binding partnerships with entities like the Writers Guild of America, The City of Los Angeles, or SAG-AFTRA (that’s the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, if you’re nasty).
These unions and agencies restrict where companies can film, what they pay their staff, and how often and when they pay them.
Anyone who thinks Netflix has ridden in on a white horse to save Hollywood is viewing Netflix as a savior rather than a business. Sure, Netflix has been doing some great things for the industry: on the business side they’ve opened up the gates of Hollywood and made a career in film & TV more attainable for normal folks; they’ve employed thousands of previously out-of-work indie filmmakers & actors; and they’ve given a bunch of independent producers a place to call home.
On the customer side Netflix has opened up a huge international content library for a low monthly fee to film & TV fans the world over, brought the movie experience to a sofa near you, and even taken the stigma out of bingewatching – which, let’s be honest, we were all doing with our The Sopranos box sets wayyy before Netflix ‘n’ Chill.
But despite all those good deeds, Netflix is a business on a mission to divide and conquer. They want to monopolize the market for film & TV streaming and then raise the prices of their service so they can begin clawing back some of the massive debt they’ve incurred.
Netflix doesn’t want to be a streaming service, they aim to be the streaming service. Their foray into creating original content doesn’t derive from a burning desire to tell stories of female prisoners, drug lords, women’s wrestling teams, or secret government programs – it’s because creating original content is more cost-effective and potentially lucrative than buying other people’s products.
While Netflix was growing and funding, it made sense to create partnerships with established production companies offering access to cast, talent, music libraries, and existing scripts so they could hit the ground running and flood content into the market. Now that Netflix enjoys healthy revenue, a pile of funding, and an engaged audience of true believers, they’re moving away from partnerships and towards a future of autonomy.
What this means for us Shadowhunters fans is that, as Constantin Films put it: “It’s not possible for this version of Shadowhunters to continue.” In order for Shadowhunters to continue on Netflix, one of a few things would need to happen.
Shadowhunters as a Netflix Originals production
In order for Shadowhunters to join the ranks of the Netflix Originals, Netflix would have to buy the rights for the current iteration of Shadowhunters from Constantin Films and any other third party. We think Netflix executives are monitoring the viewing figures and social media pull of the #SaveShadowhunters campaign to work out if this would be a financially viable move.
When Netflix buys new content, they look for two things: potential customer retention and new subscriber numbers. They’ve likely got an algorithm set up for calculating just those numbers. Netflix wants to know a new product will help them grow and sustain their audience.
Retaining existing customers is a big deal for Netflix. They want to keep their marketing costs low, and in an ideal world rely only on word-of-mouth marketing to grow. If they can sustain their existing audience long-term, it would give them more freedom to spend funds on making great content rather than trying to resell content they already have on the site.
Growing the Netflix userbase works in similar ways. Netflix is going after cable cutters heavily (folks no longer renewing their cable TV subscriptions) and audience growth is the holy grail of statistics for potential investors. While investors do want to see subscriber numbers hold steady, the only way they’ll make back their investment and hopefully turn a profit is if subscription numbers steadily and continually rise.
The independent producer route
Based on Netflix’s desire to go it alone, it seems unlikely they’ll renew their partnership with Constantin Films or make a producing partnership with any other entity to continue the Shadowhunters story. Based on the number of viewers who are tuning in and still getting turned on to Shadowhunters, they might be interested in keeping the show on their platform another way.
Any independent producer interested in assuming the mantle of Shadowhunters would have to buy the rights and assume all the costs of producing the show – but, prior to beginning production, such a company likely could broker a deal with Netflix agreeing to a license to stream the new content.
This would be an upfront gamble for the production company, but it’s highly likely they’d make back the investment and then some on the back end (international licensing and merchandise deals). Merchandise, live events, and conventions are proving over and over that many series unceremoniously sliced from the airways have fandoms in the multitudes whose dedication is not considered or sufficiently monetized when iconic series are slashed from schedules.
So what can the #Shadowfam do?
As we’ve said time and time again, a great way to get Netflix to notice is simply to open your app and give Shadowhunters a little rewatch. Your views count, especially if you then go on to watch another show suggested by Netflix from outside your watch list.
Re-register for Netflix
Maybe you’re watching Shadowhunters on the Freeform app, maybe Shadowhunters isn’t supported by Netflix in your current location, or maybe you’re sharing Netflix with ten housemates. Whatever your situation, signing up to Netflix (even if it’s only for the free trial period) and watching Shadowhunters is a viable way to get Netflix to notice the show.
You can always use a VPN (we suggest NordVPN) so you can watch Shadowhunters from whatever country your bed lies in. When you’ve registered for Netflix, influence your friends and loved ones to do the same and get them all watching Shadowhunters on repeat.
Take cord-cutting to the next level
After you’ve rewatched Shadowhunters a couple of times in May, cancel your Netflix membership and very clearly tell them the reason why you’re cancelling and when they can expect you to come back using this handy contact form.
Make sure you also do a live chat and maybe even a phone call to tell their customer service bots what’s up. Influence your personal network to do the same; the more cord-cutters there are, the more Netflix will sit up and listen.
Tell Netflix that Shadowhunters is the bomb
We know: we’ve all done this a few times before, but there’s no harm in doing it again. Make sure you let Netflix know just how much we love Shadowhunters by requesting they keep Shadowhunters on air, then make sure all your friends and family do the same by following this link.
And finally, enjoy this little Simon & Izzy featurette:
Happy campaigning, Shadowfam activists.