For any creator working with Netflix — unless, say, you’re the Duffer brothers — a show’s lifespan is an uncertainty. Despite passionate fans, Netflix original series like Tuca and Bertie, One Day At A Time, and The OA got the axe after just a few seasons. (And in the case of Tuca and Bertie, after only the first batch of episodes).
So it’s understandable that the storytellers behind The Dragon Prince are on edge. Created by Avatar: The Last Airbender writer Aaron Ehasz and Uncharted game director Justin Richmond, the animated show debuted last September and quickly gained a strong, vocal fanbase. All too familiar with the short longevity of even the most beloved Netflix shows, those dedicated viewers have preemptively rallied on social media to urge Netflix for more seasons. The creators have been transparent about the show’s uncertain future with the streaming service.
“We know there’s a trend. We are communicating really clearly with our fans that this is a seven-season saga,” Ehasz told Polygon at the 2019 New York Comic Con.
The uncertain fate has nothing to do with the quality of the show, the writer believes, but more to do with the way Netflix sets its own shows up to fall into these traps.
“Because of the nature of Netflix’s interface, they collect a lot of data that makes it seem like things with fewer seasons are more efficient in terms of how many viewers and how many hours you generate,” Ehasz said.
When the average user logs onto Netflix and discovers a new show, Ehasz explains, they naturally start with season 1. This means that season 1 of any given show is likely to have more viewers than season 2, which will have more than season 3, and so on and so on. According to the creator, the inflation from people just trying shows out ends up distorting the actual value of a show’s first season to Netflix.
“If you go down the list, you start to understand how they start to say, well let’s make a bunch of things with only three seasons,” he added.
Ultimately, though the decision-making at Netflix is guided by figures and numbers, Ehasz hopes that executives behind the user interface will make big decisions using more than just the raw data.
“What you hope is that the executives at Netflix and the people who are making decisions are able to see that actually the greatest hits in the history of television were things that caught fire in season three. Hopefully they can start to see past the weird distorted data that they’re gathering and recognize that true great hits are things that gained steam later,” he said. “And what does that look like to gain steam? What it looks like often is a courageous executive saying this show has fans who love it. This show has energy around it. We should double down on this and keep it rolling, keep it moving.”
The Dragon Prince returns to Netflix for a third season on Nov. 22.