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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. I have no clue who the critics are but this show was a very good series all of Netflix original series are actually I started watching anything with Netflix original series name on it and they have yet to disappoint!

  2. Arkisha Toles

    I loved this shows and my boyfriend who is a BIG old school horror fan, LOVED this movie. I showed him bits and piece of the werewolf turning and, he was like damn this is cool. This Netflix series should be in DVD cause if it was, I would buy all the season. This is a suspenseful show all the way through, it had me on pin and needles each episode; its not a teenager movie it’s too good to be a teen show. Twilight is a teen movie, teen wolf is a teen show, Buffy the vampire is a teen show, and Hemlock Grove is not.

  3. Hemlock grove does something unique. It is in many ways a trashy teen horror series. However, it’s very well shot, has appropriate production value and has engaging plot lines. I’m all for this “Buffy on crack” series. Bravo Netflix. Legit noir it is.

  4. BrittneyP

    I agree with the comments being left here, this show has been amazing, with the many movies about mythical creatures lately I can say this is the most realistic I have ever seen. Not to mention the twists and turns it takes in the end. I am very excited to hear there will be a second season, because I have not gotten enough with just this one.

  5. Loved it from the beginning watched all 13 episodes in 2 days.Now I see it may not return…so disappointed.please oh please! Put it back on, truly loved the actors. all so unique to other vampire series.

  6. Kimberly

    WOW! I just watched the series. I couldn’t stop and when I did stop, I was rushing to get back to it to find what else is going to happen. I loved it and I can’t wait to see season 2. I don’t understand why the critics gave it such a bad review. I suppose they don’t see a good thing when its right in front of their faces. Their loss! Thanks Netflix!

  7. I’m glad Netflix renewed the series. Just finished watching all of Hemlock Grove, it was a bit slow the first 2 episodes but when it did reach climax it was hard to not keep watching it. I liked the story line unique and fresh. Great thriller and mystery combination. Can’t wait for season 2!

  8. dolcebambina84

    I am 29 and just finished watching the season. I really loved this show!!! Roman Godfrey is such a hottie. I enjoy Netflix originals like Orange is the New Black and even the Mako mermaids.

  9. Kristen

    My sister told me to watch it and at first I was like what the heck cause of car scene but I couldn’t stop watching it, loved the show. I haven’t read any reviews, which I usually don’t on shows I watch until after I’ve watched but from what I read the acting was questioned, I think it fit the show’s storyline myself. Some of camera angles reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock type effects also. Although the characters ages were in the late teens, I think a lot of the material was more mature. I am in my 40s by the way. So glad for the second season.

  10. Emery Rudolph

    I truly wanted to like it, and gave it a good objective view, but ultimately it was not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I think the acting was very good, but there was so little content that it really became nothing but a series of long, drawn out, disconnected conversations. One episode of really good effects and the rest just a constant foreshadowing of something about to happen. I appreciate Netflix trying a new model of self programming, but they must provide more satisfying content – not just dialog.

  11. The one thing that keeps me watching despite my confusion with whether I like it or not…… is the music!!! Very good to the ears! The man responsible for music context and placement is Nathan Barr who writes alot of the original music for true blood

  12. Jramirez

    I’m very excited just found it myself three days ago and stayed up till nearly one each night just to finish. Love the twists! Can’t wait till season 2.

  13. This show was very interesting to me. I would love for another season. A lot of unexpected twists. Annd, ultimately dude killing his Mother, awesomeness. Just needed a little more detail as to what was going on exactly.

  14. This just goes to show how little the critics know. Usually if they love it, it sucks. If they hate it, then it is probably pretty entertaining. I loved the show. Sometimes the acting was a little hammy (like Famke’s fake English accent!) but the plot was very, very engaging. I look forward to season two!

  15. Judy Schwartz

    I stumbled onto to this series one night out of sheer boredom. First episode, I was hooked. Lots of twists and turns. Looking forward to Season II.

  16. I can always tell that I’m going to love a show when the critics hate it. Hemlock Grove really drew me in and made me want to see what’s going to happen next. One thing I really like about it is that it does answer some of the questions that you have as the series goes along. I lose interest when a series goes on and on and there are never any answers, just more questions.

  17. LadyFal

    35 here – found this show just 3 days ago and just finished episode 13. Obviously hooked.

    As for what critics say… I’m in show business myself and something I’ve heard my entire career – ‘those who can’t act become critics’. I never put much stock in what critics say – I prefer to make the decision of what to watch and what is good acting myself.