Shadow and Bone’s Perplexing Cancellation and Other Revelations from Netflix’s Viewership Report

Netflix's engagement report is a good step forward for data transparency, but still doesn't quite paint the full picture.

Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa in episode 208 of Shadow and Bone

For the first time ever, Netflix has published an engagement report for the movies and TV shows available on the streaming service. This report includes both original and licensed content and lists the total hours watched for everything that has 50,000 hours or higher, which amounts to more than 18,000 titles. It’s supposedly an effort by Netflix to be more transparent in their user data, likely brought on by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes that called for streaming data to be shared more publicly. However, while this is an important step forward, the report reveals a lot more than just a giant list of numbers.

Shadow and Bone’s Perplexing Cancellation

Given the fact that Shadow and Bone was canceled after its second season, you’d think that the series would be pretty far down in this report. However, season 2 of the series ranks 26th on this list with 192,900,000 hours viewed. Even though that’s nowhere near Wednesday’s 507,700,000 hours, it’s only two spots below the first season of XO, Kitty, which was renewed for another season.

As the data from this report circulates, Shadow and Bone fans have been rightfully perplexed as to why it got canceled. According to Netflix’s own report, it didn’t pull horrible numbers. In fact, this report is only from the first half of the year, Jan. through June. Given that season 2 dropped on March 16, this only accounts for the first 2-3 months of viewing. Obviously, with Netflix’s binge-watching model the first few months tend to be crucial in deciding a show’s fate, but it doesn’t account for any upticks in viewership that may have arisen over the summer as more people have time off or any binge-watching done by fans hoping to boost numbers in the aftermath of the show’s cancellation.

This report also doesn’t show completion rates – the percentage of people who finish a season – which is an even bigger factor in determining what does and doesn’t get renewed by the streamer. According to PlumResearch (via What’s on Netflix), Shadow and Bone’s completion rate for season 2 was 36.3% in the first seven days and grew to 56.8% within 90 days. This may not seem like a lot, but comparatively, The Night Agent (which ranked number one on Netflix’s engagement report) had a 42.3% completion rate in its first seven days and grew to 59.6% within its first 90 days. Now I’m no mathematician, but those numbers don’t seem that far off to me.

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International Titles Lead the Pack

Though this may not be much of a surprise after Squid Game’s success, it’s still important to note that several international titles rank high in this report. The South Korean series The Glory ranks third below Ginny & Georgia’s second season with 622,800,000 hours viewed. The third season of the Telenovela La Reina del Sur is seventh on the list with 429,600,000 hours viewed, and is the only title in the top ten that’s not available on Netflix globally. The first season of the Korean reality competition show Physical: 100 is number 15 on the list and is followed by the Korean limited series Crash Course in Romance.

These Numbers Don’t Paint the Full Picture for Some Series

Because this report only accounts for viewership between January and June of 2023, shows like The Witcher season 3 and Black Mirror season 6 appear lower on the list than anticipated. It’s hard to compare their “success” to others on the list when only a few days or weeks of data is shown. Black Mirror at least still gathered 139,900,000 hours of views between its premiere date of June 15 and the end of the month. The Witcher season 3, on the other hand, only has 33,400,000 hours. This makes sense given that part 1 of the season didn’t premiere until June 29 and the other half dropped a month later, after this data was culled. However, including it in this list now only makes the show look worse than it likely is and provides an inconclusive set of data.

This split between June and July also fails to account for the boom that Suits had on the streaming service through the late summer. The series still has high numbers considering that it wasn’t available for U.S. subscribers until June, but this data feels outdated given that we now know that the USA legal drama has broken viewership records by billions of minutes.

It’s odd that Netflix wouldn’t just wait until the new year and drop the entire year’s worth of data all at once. Sure, that may be a little more data for people like me to comb through, but at least it would give a fuller picture of Netflix’s year rather than a snapshot of 6 months ago. If Netflix keeps its promise of releasing these reports twice a year, it will be interesting to see what the latter half of this year looks like when that data drops.