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Netflix’s decision to renew Hemlock Grove shows its algorithms are working

Netflix (s NFLX) 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.

172 Responses to “Netflix’s decision to renew Hemlock Grove shows its algorithms are working”

  1. Storm Boen

    Great Series so far. Just found it. I can understand a little on the moving slow on the plot, but compare to 90% of the content out there, I can suffer a bit slow plot movement with the overwhealming mystery questions I have. I very much appreciate the way Netflix does not pay attention to the critics. The way they dont focus on picking up the teenage girl audience and middle age woman like EVERY single network at the end of the day does. Thus horrible reality Tv, boring Tv, etc. Thanks Netflix! BTW Im not a teenager, Im a middle age Military Male.

  2. Ambrose Chappel

    After watching House of Cards and being thrilled by every moment, I was really disappointed in Hemlock Grove. While interesting and macabre, the series just didn’t come together very well and left me feeling like I was watching some high school student’s bad screenplay. Many of the story elements were just absurd. I guess the series’ target audience (teenage horror fans) like it well enough…just not for me.

  3. This show is the worst one they have produced. I’m about halfway through the first season and the show has no redeeming qualities. The production values are fine, the acting is sub par best and there is little chemistry. However it is the writing of the show that really shows how bad it is.

    The problem is that they took the worst of Lost and put it into a show with no other obvious hook. There is simply no story here. There was a murder. We don’t know who or what did it. We don’t know anything about the town, we don’t know anything about the characters. We are simply not invested. New characters pop up on a whim without explanation, existing characters do things for no good reason (and against all sanity). The real problem is that is the ENTIRE show. In a show like say X files, you had a long story arc uncovered over multiple seasons but day to day you still had a base story to follow. There is no reason to watch Hemlock Grove day to day and the mystery simply isn’t compelling.

    • Stephanie

      Ok now I have to disagree that the shows mystery is the cause for the viewers not to get invested. The mystery of the unknown makes it so special & wondering who the characters are & how they fit together. That’s a good supernatural show to me & not when you have the day to day shows where it’s so predictable who is who & what from the start. I like the mystery, the twists, the characters & their stories & I want to get to know them all better & see what’s in store for them.
      It’s not a super action filled series where there’s a whole bunch butchering going on but that’s what I like about it. I like to see the stories unfold & it’s nothing like the x-files at all.
      But yeah your taste may be different & it’s just not for you, but I as most ppl love the show :)

  4. Tonya Renee Siford

    It was a great show, when I heard about it I seen I couldn’t get it anywhere else and I ended up getting a subscription to Netflix just so I could watch the show, I couldn’t stop until I finished it and then it left me wanting it some more, so whoever those critics are does not represent us the watchers. My opinion on critics is that unless you have some zillion dollar production or have a plot that involves some type of historical background then you are considered crap, really like half the movies and theatrical pieces they consider “award winning” are really not that great!

  5. pauline

    My husband and I do not fit into the teenage horror fan category but we just finished season one and will be watching for season 2. Nice to have an option other that another cop/ murder show.

  6. John Allen

    I watched it and loved it. Looking forward to the second season. I’m also not a teenager but I am a horror movie fan and hemlock grove is definitely worth checking out. It ain’t no walking dead or American horror story but it is still decent.

  7. I have watch the first season of Hemlock Grove twice & I am waiting for the second season!!!! I really want to know what happens and how the show progress!! Please continue making Hemlock Grove. I’m in suspense!!!! HURRY!!!!!!!

  8. My husband and I LOVED Hemlock Grove. The mystery, darkness and beauty buried within each character, makes you feel a connection to them. I will be dissappointed if there isn’t a second season.

  9. Newsbys

    I am also not a teenager. I loved it. Got addicted and watch the whole thing in two days. I didn’t find the acting awkward at all. It was bloody at times, which I usually don’t like, but it worked for the story. Best werewolf transformation I have ever seen. They did not skimp on FX.

  10. It did show up in my recommendations based on what I’ve watched previously. To each their own, right? I dug it and can’t wait for season 2!

  11. Maryjo Hill

    I really enjoyed the series and would love to see so much more. I am an adult not a teen and I loved it! So, my vote Netflix, more Hemlock Grove Please!

  12. Colleen Cole Olivas

    I started watching it, and I was very surprised at how good it was. I also thought that just because it was a netflix original series that it would be low budget and really bad (as did other people I mentioned it to). I watched all the eps and I am really looking forward to another season. I am telling all my friends and family to check it out (we are not teens…30-50 crowd) Lovin this show.

  13. Luckydogs

    I am 43 and really enjoyed it. I love being able to watch episode after episode of suspense on a rainy day. I am excited that the second season will launch just disappointed that it will not be until 2014.

  14. Kellie D. Elledge-Bott

    I just happened across Hemlock Grove & I can’t wait for 2014 !! NO GLITTERING VAMPIRES !!! WEREWOLVES that are Normal sized. I am really glad to see it being Renewed. Thanks NETFLIX !!!

    • Melayahm

      TBH, glittery vampires and oversized werewolves were just a Meyer glitch. Most of the adult horror viewing world doesn’t really consider Twiglit, (sp intentional) well, worth considering at all! (And the adults who love it are really just lusting after one of 2 ‘teenage’ boys)

  15. Melayahm

    I just finished watching it. I enjoyed it, and I am waay past being a teenager! However my 16 y/o daughter was very upset by the last episode – not giving away any spoilers, but a certain idea made her leave the room in a hurry, even though she loves slasher movies and Freddie and Jason are anti heroes of hers. I quite liked the moodiness of it, and it didn’t leave too many hanging unanswered questions, like, say, Lost. Will doubtless watch the next series when it arrives in the UK, but my daughter probably won’t.

  16. Lucille Bradford

    Never go with what the critics say they don’t know anything. Hemlock Grove is a good show and I can’t wait to see the next season.