We all know the same sad story: a streaming site has an amazingly written, produced and acted show. Despite how good the show is, and even if it has a cult following, the streaming site sends out a tweet abruptly announcing that show’s cancellation. Fans are rightfully horrified. Was the viewership not high enough? Were there behind-the-scenes disputes between producers? Or, did the fans simply not buy enough merchandise or generate enough profit?
Critically acclaimed shows like "Hannibal,“ “The Owl House," "GLOW" and "Agent Carter" have all fallen prey to this trend. They’ve all been cut short or canceled for some reason relating to profit – too-low viewership, expensive production costs or company budget cuts. Other artists and creators likely witness these trends and wonder how they, too, can avoid their creations being canceled. Do they need to add more or less diverse characters? Give more screen time to fan-favorite characters? Or brainstorm a new plotline?
While changing up aspects of a show can be for the better, it does not absolve the fact that artists and creators are now at the whims of consumers. It is a constant battle to make as much money as possible with these shows while offsetting production costs.
And sometimes that is even not enough, because some artists are at the whims of streaming CEOs and production managers. For example, “The Owl House" is a beloved Disney Plus production. It has been critically acclaimed and has massive viewership from a ranged audience. So, why is its third season, coming in October, the final season? The creator claimed a Disney higher-up said it did not fit with their brand.
Creators are now at the mercy of profit. In order to have a backing from corporate streaming sites like Disney, Hulu, Netflix and more, art and artistry must be profitable. It must pander to consumers, able to be consumed. And no matter how beloved or how well-written a show is, it all depends on how much money it makes.
Inversely, good art can also be negatively impacted if it is profitable. Take "Ted Lasso," for example, which has made it no secret that its third season will be its last. The show is well-written, with funny and endearing characters, and is overall highly entertaining. While viewers would love more content beyond a third season, they understand that the quality may suffer if the writers are forced to squeeze out more episodes.
Will producers and executives force the "Ted Lasso" team to create a fourth season? If the viewership and awards they’ve picked up are any indicator, then yes.
But that’s not the way art – which, yes film and television are art – should be created. If television and film are dependent on profit and the whims of consumers, it will never be genuine and creators will never fully have control of their art. Creators will now tailor what they produce to what people will buy instead of to what they want to create.
The future of creative freedom looks pretty grim with the rise of streaming services.
Colleen McLafferty is a junior studying history at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Colleen by tweeting her at @colleenbealem.