Most people have never heard of Hemlock Grove. Critics who watched it hated it. But Netflix nonetheless decided to renew the original series for a second season.

hemlock grove feature art

Netflix announced this week that it is renewing its original horror series Hemlock Grove for a second season, with 10 new episodes set to premiere in 2014. The news may come as a surprise to some: Netflix has spent a lot of effort promoting Arrested Development and House of Cards, but hasn’t made a big fuss about Hemlock. Critics who watched the show hated it, calling it a dud, a flop and “the company’s first truly bad series.

And if you’re anything like me, then you have never seen Hemlock Grove pop up in your Netflix recommendations. Heck, chances are, you may have never heard about Hemlock before reading this article. But that’s OK; Netflix didn’t make the show for us. It’s aimed at an audience of teenage horror fans. And Netflix had the numbers to know that this audience was engaged enough on the streaming service to make a title like Hemlock Grove succeed.

Netflix has long puzzled the traditional TV industry by refusing to give out ratings for its original shows, despite the fact that House of Cards, in particular, seemed to have turned into a hit, both loved by critics and audiences alike. But the company has been dismissive of this kind of feedback, with Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos telling me earlier this year that the absolute number of people who tune into a single episode doesn’t matter all that much. “When you say 10 million people watch a show, that really doesn’t tell you anything,” he said when I met him at an industry conference in February.

Instead, Netflix is looking to cultivate dedicated niche audiences, and is paying very close attention to the ways its subscribers are interacting with each piece of content. If they watch en episode of a show, are they opting to watch the second one as well? If they go from watching a movie to a TV show episode, does it fit into a pattern that lets you predict about what they’re going to watch next?

Sarandos told me that Netflix is using a mix of data and intuition when it makes decisions on original content. I’d bet that with renewals, data wins over gut feelings. And the fact that Netflix decided to renew Hemlock Grove doesn’t make the show good television — but it shows that the company’s algorithms are working.

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  1. Good show.

  2. I thought the series was good, it had a good mystery within it. I also think that they should take a page from wigs on youtube by releasing so many episodes on a certain day.

  3. My husband and I, (NOT teenagers, by the way) just recently found this show and we really like it a lot. It isn’t the greatest show I have ever seen, but it is interesting and entertaining. Just proves to me that what we always discuss is true: if critics hate it, we are probably going to like it. LOL

  4. J. Robert Hanson Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Netflix makes some interesting moves in light of content programing. A lot of shows that died on Network TV might find life at Netflix for cult-like followers of shows. CHUCK for example, supposedly a smaller audience, but extremely committed and loyal followers.

  5. Not everybody wants to see stupid stuff like Honey BooBoo, reality shows and stuff like Desperate Housewifes… duh! Hemlock Grove was interesting and very different from your every day werewolf movies…. I thoroughly enjoyed it and want more!

    1. Agreed, it’s good to see something out of the ordinary. Given the whole vampire/werewolf thing has been done a lot lately but they made a nice twist to it and it kept my interest. I don’t know why there’s so many people saying how horrible it is.

      1. I agree also, and am looking forward to more episodes!
        I have found that whatever the critics say is bad – is usually REAL good, and what they do like and promote is a pile of refuse. IMO
        But then again I despise reality shows and drama queens.

  6. I love the show im glad it will be back

  7. I agree with what some of the negative reviews say about this series, but I love it nonetheless. It is so lush, slow, and weird, and the sometimes awkward acting works with the atmosphere of the show. I just loved it.
    Regarding advertising, the show kept popping in my netflix home page, so either netflix advertised it in some way, or they have identified my with a vampire loving teen; I should probably worry about that actually!

  8. Very excited there will be another season. Myself (58) and my son (24) loved the series so Thank you thank you thank you :)

  9. Earl Gentry Jr. Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Netflix and Youtube should employ the technology offered by Raystream Inc. this software can reduce the amount of bandwidth used, it would stop the buffering, show clearer pictures even on HD, people with only a 3G connection would be able to watch the movies without buffering.

  10. I liked the show. It was interesting. I am looking forward to the second installment. Matter of fact, Netflix, where is the second installment of House of Cards? Now that show got me hooked!! You know, it’s not nice to leave people hanging! I say that with love. Hee Hee!

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