Why Netflix is actually aiming for more cancellations

A week after shutteringBaz Luhrmann's lavish hip-hop drama The Get Down, Netflix company founder and CEO Reed Hastings made a rare television appearance to explain why cancellations are not only healthy for the company but necessary in its aggressive pursuit of unprecedented success.

During an appearance on CNBC, Hastings was asked about some of the company's notably expensive investments—a reported $120 million on the first season of The Get Down; a reported $90 million on the first season of Marco Polo, among others—and the methodology behind them, since Netflix famously does not disclose its viewership data to the public.

"What really matters is I hope our hit ratio is way too high right now," Hastings told anchor Julia Boorstin, diverting the conversation back to the company's success rate. "We've canceled very few shows."

"I'm always pushing the content team: 'We have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall,'" Hastings explained.

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400303 03: Ready-to-be-shipped DVDs roll down an assembly line January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site Netflix.com has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 01: Netflix.com Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings holds a ready-to-be-shipped DVD January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 05: Packages of DVDs await shipment at the Netflix.com headquarters January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gives a keynote address, January 6, 2016 at the CES 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Although the business strategy will lead to more cancellations, Hastings said Netflix's bolder programming bets will also yield surprising successes like 13 Reasons Why, the dark high-school drama which earned rave reviews, inspired cultural debate, and was picked up for a second season earlier this month.

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"[That strategy will create] some winners that are just unbelievable winners, like 13 Reasons Why," Hastings said. "It surprised us. It was a great show, but we didn't realize just how it would catch on."

Boorstin pressed Hastings for details about Netflix audience numbers but to no avail. Instead, the Netflix founder offered a clue about how the company deems its programs failures.

"You can tell when we cancel a show," Hastings said, adding that the company considers "a mix" of factors in its decision, including viewership and subscriber growth. "Mostly, it is how many people watch. But those are very connected."

And what programming gambles does Hastings consider the most promising in the company's near future?

When asked the big question, Hastings—who previously predicted that The Crown would set audiences afire—teased GLOW, the 10-episode series from Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan set in the 1980s world of women's wrestling.

"It is both spoof and funny," said Hastings of the series, which stars Alison Brie. "And that will be coming out a few weeks after Orange Is the New Black."

Inspired by the actual GLOW—the women's wrestling TV series that ran in the late 80s, and stood for "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling"—the comedy debuts on June 23.

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