The OA's Jason Isaacs Gives His Take on Why the Netflix Series Was Really Canceled

Pictured: The OA fans.
Pictured: The OA fans.
Photo: Nicola Goode (Netflix)

The OA isn’t the latest Netflix series to get the ax, but it might be the most talked about. The sci-fi series has grown a revival campaign akin to something like #SaveTheExpanse (which did end up saving The Expanse). But some fans still wonder why Netflix killed off the show in the first place. According to star Jason Isaacs, it wasn’t viewership numbers, it was something else.


In an interview with RadioTimes, Isaacs shared his thoughts on the August cancellation of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s The OA, leaving the show on a cliffhanger after just two seasons. Netflix typically doesn’t release viewership numbers for its shows—unless they’re something to brag about—but the show seemed to have enough of a following to keep things going. According to Isaacs, the problem wasn’t how many viewers The OA was getting: It was how many people it could get to subscribe to Netflix.

“It’s one of the odd things that happen in the new media world that you’re canceled not because of numbers, but because of other corporate needs,” he said. “Netflix needs to build subscribers and they make their decisions on a bunch of other things, which are not to do with the number of people watching, more to do with how many people they can get to sign up.”


This is an idea that’s been expressed before. Back in July, former Netflix employees told The Information that the streaming platform judges a show or film’s success based on “a measure of viewership that gives more weight to new subscribers.” This was right around the time Netflix was looking to be more cautious with its spending. After The OA was canceled in August, BGR surmised that some shows wouldn’t be worth continuing after two seasons—not only because they may not bring in fresh subscribers with the promise of something new, but also because contract renegotiations (which typically happen after a couple of seasons) would increase the overall cost of the show. We’ve reached out to Netflix for additional comment and will update should we hear back.

“I know the Netflix execs who made the decision to cancel it felt equally sad because they had five seasons mapped out and the show has this rabid committed fanbase. Those people felt very upset. I wouldn’t want to be sitting in the Netflix executive chairs,” Isaacs added.

For Netflix, it seems better to entice audiences with new stuff instead of building loyal fanbases with more of the same thing. I sure hope the streamer is getting its money’s worth with Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who were signed to a massive deal just two days after The OA was canceled. What kind of things are they already working on for Netflix? Today it was announced they’re co-directing a Leslie Jones comedy special. Sounds like a solid use of their time.


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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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This is the problem with streaming — it’s not how many viewers, it’s how many new viewers. Because they don’t have advertisements, so they need a steady stream of new subscriptions. So this means that they will save a show that had a cult popularity — like Lucifer or Designated Survivor — because they will gain them viewers, but will cancel shows like The OA and One Day at a Time because after two seasons, they have a steady numbers of viewers, but that’s not bringing Netflix any money.

This is also why Hulu offers a cheaper plan with commercials — because they earn more money with commercials then they do with new viewers.