While Netflix is easily the biggest streaming service in the world, how it actually makes its programming decisions is still largely a mystery. The company doesn’t report numbers on its shows outside of selective (and carefully-worded) statistics and top 10 lists, and shows live or die based on criteria that largely isn’t public. Beloved shows that seem successful, like the streamer’s widely adored revival of The Baby-Sitters Club, can be abruptly canceled, and it’s impossible to know if your favorite show will go the distance. According to The Baby-Sitters Club showrunner Rachel Shukert, it’s just as hard for the people making the show.
In an unusually candid interview with Vulture, Shukert delivers a detailed post-mortem on The Baby-Sitters Club and its cancellation, which came in March after a well-reviewed second season. According to Shukert, what individual showrunners know about Netflix’s metrics is frustratingly limited to their own shows, which makes it difficult to know what the company is looking for.
“When you only have your numbers in a vacuum and you don’t know the numbers of anything else, you don’t know what you’re trying to hit,” said Shukert. “You don’t know what numbers other comparable shows are hitting. Netflix will give you context in terms of what your numbers were last season or what they were hoping for, but even that is very vague. You’re flying a little blind.”
Complicating this is what Shukert says she knows the company is looking for, which is shows that drive subscriber growth — in other words, international hits in regions outside of North America, where everyone who is likely to have a Netflix subscription already does.
“For this show that has a fine viewership but is not a monster hit, but it’s beloved by fans … does that matter? I don’t know,” Shukert said. “I think we had the bad luck to come out at about the same time as Squid Game, which showed them how crazy numbers could get.”
The entire interview is insightful and worth reading for anyone who wants to know more about how and why their favorite shows get canceled on Netflix, and how that might affect different kinds of shows disproportionately. As others have noted, the cancellation of The Baby-Sitters Club isn’t merely another case of a fan-favorite show gone too soon, it’s also one of the few shows that catered to a young female audience in an environment where that’s become all too rare — and maybe that’s because they now exist in an environment that doesn’t allow them to succeed.