The Real Reason Sense8 Was Canceled
Netflix’s cancelation of the ambitious, inclusive Sense8 was a blow heard across the world. The move is strange for Netflix, which isn’t known for canceling many shows, and came just weeks after the release of a well-received, long-awaited second season. Fans immediately started a social media campaign for the show to get a third season, resulting in a petition that has already garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
While Sense8’s cancelation certainly comes as a surprise to fans of the show, there were actually quite a few signs pointing to the idea that the series wouldn’t live to see another season. Here are the real reasons Sense8 was canceled.
It had a big price tag
Netflix is very, very secretive about what goes into their content-making decisions, but their recent cancelation of Sense8, along with one-season wonder The Get Down, offer a bit of an insight into what the streamer is looking for. While Netflix has for a long time given off the impression that money means nothing to them, with a massive $6 billion content budget funding huge film acquisitions and big TV shows, their two recent cancelations show they aren’t entirely immune to budgetary concerns, as both were among the most expensive shows on television.
Sense8 filmed all over the world, and the cost of flying to and filming in real locations just kept adding up, especially with the series’ expansive cast. Reports put the show at $9 million per episode, which is on par with the later seasons of HBO’s juggernaut Game of Thrones. As Sense8 star Brian J. Smith acknowledged when posting on Twitter asking fans to push for the show’s renewal, that price tag requires quite a few eyeballs to justify, and, although Netflix doesn’t release ratings, there are other signs pointing to the fact that Sense8 just wasn’t reaching that many people.
It spent a long time in production
Sense8’s international production is also an organizational nightmare, which means production takes a long, long time. This explains the two-year delay between the first and second seasons, with the show filming at over a dozen places on four continents. In addition to driving up the cost of hiring crew members, this long production, coupled with pre-production and post-production, meant that Netflix had to shell out a lot of cash to keep the big cast on contract.
They decided not to do this after the completion of season two, letting the casts’ options expire to save up on expensive talent-holding fees. This meant ordering a third season would have required renegotiating new contracts with the entire of the cast, an added headache on top of an already difficult production. Letting the casts’ options expire also meant that actors had the chance to sign on to other projects, and, while none of the eight main cast members did, supporting cast member Naveen Andrews joined the CBS pilot Instinct, meaning he only would have been available for guest starring roles on a potential third season.
Although Netflix did reportedly start looking into renewing the casts’ contracts for a third season, the amount of time in pre-production, production, and post-production just made Sense8 harder to produce operationally and continued to drive up costs, making it more tempting to take the series off the air.
It was very hard to market
Marketing is key, and a lot of it comes down to being able to boil a show down to a tagline or a 30-second teaser. Even though these short glimpses aren’t enough to sell what they’re truly about, they’re enough to pull audiences in For Sense8, though, the show’s complicated premise made it pretty much impossible to reduce to an easily digestible piece of advertising. Sense8 was a twisty, deep, and engaging journey from start to finish, but it could also, at times, be a very, very confusing path to follow, making it hard for Netflix to explain to potential viewers or even friends to sell the show to each other through word of mouth. While for many fans this was part of the series’ draw, it was also a big turnoff for others, and just another obstacle in finding a way to draw in viewers.
Netflix is looking to cancel more shows
Sense8’s cancelation could be part of a growing trend that sees more Netflix shows getting the axe. CEO Reed Hastings revealed in a recent interview that he believes that the streamer should actually be canceling more shows and making riskier content. According to Hastings, Netflix has had far too many hits recently, which means that they aren’t taking enough chances. He cited recent hit 13 Reasons Why as an example of a risk that paid off, saying that the show “surprised” the company. “You get some winners that are just unbelievable winners,” he said. “It’s a great show, but we didn’t realize just how it would catch on.”
Hastings wouldn’t reveal just what goes into Netflix’s decision to cancel or keep a series, but he did say it’s a combination of viewership and subscriber growth, noting that “mostly, it’s how many people watch.” Although Sense8 definitely fits with Hastings’ calls for riskier content, if it really does come down to how many people watch, the series wasn’t drawing in enough people to make it past Netflix’s new, tougher standards.