Last year, the renewal of two fan favourite Netflix shows were up in the air. We knew that there were choices to be made, generally related to costs, and we were unlikely to get everything. In fact, it was entirely plausible and in fact likely that we might lose them both.
In the end, we lost the aptly named Everything Sucks but we kept One Day at a Time.
So why, today, are we fighting again for renewal?
One Viewer at a Time
Shortly after season three dropped, showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett tweed some disheartening news.
More viewers. One Day at a Time doesn’t have the mysterious, nebulous, viewers to be ‘enough.’ We don’t know what that magical number might be, we have no way of knowing how close the show is to that, and Netflix is anything but helpful.
The Facts of Television
We have very few facts. Is this international audiences? Is it American? Is it that not enough new accounts immediately watch the show? The black-box that is Netflix is rarely more infuriating than when you just know ‘it’s not enough’ but when you tell your friends to watch it, they say they can’t find it. Which brings me to the next question.
Why is the burden of the show’s advertisement falling on the show runners and fans? Why is Netflix making it impossible to find a show unless you key in the specific name? Why do we not see it on our own ‘My List’ pages? If the show is being covered by digital and print media, lauded as one of the best sitcoms, why are there no ‘for your consideration’ billboards and bench signs?
But here we have Gloria being forced to ask us to watch, and required to tell everyone she meets about this show. That’s why she brings this up in interviews:
“I had a really lovely meeting with Netflix [executives], and they talked about how much they loved the show and the underrepresented audiences it represents and about how the Twitter love is there for the show but that it’s not in line with the amount of viewership they would need for the cost. Whatever cost-benefit analysis they have, they just need more viewers in order to make it something they would consider. They made it clear that numbers aren’t everything, but they are a business. I get that. I just figured — I don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know that we need more viewers, so I will do what I did last year and let our audience know what little I know, which is more people need to watch.LA Times: ‘One Day at a Time’s’ Gloria Calderón Kellett on being the boss and the Netflix numbers game
The Six Million Dollar Show
Television, be it traditional, cable, or streaming, runs by the numbers. Without viewers, without drawing new audiences, and without money, we cannot have our shows. In many cases, the costs can be offset or deferred by other parts of a company, but that is not a sustainable relationship. And viewership is a non-infinite pool from which shows must draw.
For streaming media, there’s a different issue with viewers. Traditional television, that airs a show at a set time every week, must always fight with other shows in the same slot. They’re in constant competition. Streaming, on the other hand, can be binged at any time, which means it’s not fighting for a share of viewers, but specifically new viewers.
We can infer from this that for a show like One Day at a Time to have that mystical ‘enough’ viewership, what Netflix really means is that it cannot draw from the existing pool of subscribers. Instead, it must be the raison d’eter for new viewers. And this is complicated by the fact that when someone new logs in to Netflix, they rarely see that show front and centre.
Ally in the Family
As frustrating as this is, it remains clear that if falls to us, the people who love a show, to make it seen and heard and watched. We can complain all we want that the networks should promote the show more, that it should feature it more on their ‘shows you might like’ list, or that they should use the fans as proof that people should invest in their show. When the day ends, we can’t make that happen.
It becomes more painful when Netflix claims they are allies:
And yet they still place shows that matter, shows that tell stories in voices we rarely hear, on the bubble. This means there is a burden on us to fight for the shows we want. It sucks to say that, but it’s clear that Netflix won’t carry it further.
This brings us to the ultimate question:How do we fight?
The brutal reality is that we’re not millionaires. In fact, we fans of shows like One Day at a Time are likely to be people of colour, or LGBTQ+, or both. And that means we make statistically less money than our cis-het-white counterparts. We have fewer resources. Some of us can throw money for billboards and signs and airplanes. Not all of us can.
Here are some things you can do:
- Social Media. Use the hashtags like
#RenewODAATand make sure you spell them correctly. Twitter counts capitalization as different trends.
- Share the news. Found an article from a newspaper or magazine people respect? Share it. Get it out there that everyone likes this show.
- Cross the streams. Are you shieing away from telling your developer friends to watch the show? Worried that your friends in a different hobby won’t get it? Tell them anyway.
- Blog it. Give it a permanent home on your personal website to let it be known you dig it.
- Take it offline. It’s the paradox for a streaming show, but tell people out in the physical world. Ride a bus and someone strikes up a conversation, ask them if they’ve heard of the show.
- Donate in their name. The cast and crew of the show care deeply, and so do you, so donate in the name of the show to places like The Trevor Project, RAICES, and yes, Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief. Because they still need our help.
Above all, be vocal. Be loud. Be positive.