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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. Christa Harden Harold

    I hadn’t hear of it till last month. They don’t give things a chance. With SO many programs to choose from you can’t know or hear of them all. I have caught tv series late in the game and loved them only to find they had been cancelled and if you asked someone if they saw or heard of it they probably haven’t and then they watch it and love it. Not everyone watches 12hrs of tv a day. Some of us have to work and just dont’ have time to catch everything there is to offer.
    You have to spread the word and give it a chance.

  2. StylinRed

    The show starts off horribly but if you give it 1 or 2 episodes (as with all shows) you’ll get a feel of whether or not you want to continue and Hemlock Grove had me hooked its just a shame that it takes so long for the next season to come out
    If you’re going to release an entire season at once than dont make me wait a bloody year+ for the next season
    Its bad enough waiting for shows to start airing in the fall (for television series’) and once a week at that but to have to wait a bloody year after getting all episodes at once OMG

  3. I truly enjoyed it, way better than the stupid Twilight Series, It was recommended after watching the Howling: Reborn with the same kid that played Peter….I think it was a great stumble!!

  4. Actually, I am 41 yrs old and watched this series when it came out and I Loved it. I was left wanting more and was hoping for another season renewal. I found this article to be a bit harsh but it is your opinion. I am anxiously waiting for Season 2.

  5. Wrong Janko… I know plenty of adults that not only watched the series, but loved it. I love how these pretentious critics spew out opinions (key word being opinions) and this makes it so. There are plenty of blockbuster mega-hit movies that the “crtics” hated. I am not really even sure why most critics are still getting paid…

  6. I loved it, and I love, love, love that tv will never be the same because of Netflix. I feel like Netflix is giving a big fuck you to an ass backwards industry. If Netflix had sports, we wouldnt need tv or cable. Speaking of which, Cable had better up their game if they dont want to end up like blockbuster.

  7. I am 34 and Ioved it. I found it searching for new shows. Definitely has some twists then the usual horror shows. But, thats what made it interesting and wanting to watch more. Cant wait till next season.

  8. itsprostockhockey

    Man, you might think your opinion is going to be agreed upon but critics do just that, criticize and some dont even watch an entire two episodes.

    You might not like it, but a lot of people do, it actually popped up on my suggestion feed and i’m on episode three, so far. It’s pretty darn good.
    Why? Its actually entertaining, and doesnt have some redneck fatass family acting like the stereotypes of the south other countries mock us for.

  9. I loved the show and im not a teenager either…lol
    I actually hate the reality tv shows they show on tv
    they are so dumb this show kept me guessing and thinking omg!!

  10. A second season, YES!!!! When I saw the first commercial, I knew I had to watch this show. I watched all night and crashed a few hours before going to work the next day. After work, I continued the marathon until I completed the 1st season in disappointment that there was no second season. I cannot wait!!!!

  11. Katie Rodgers Kuryla

    I just found the show on Tues and finished it today (Thurday)! I can’t wait for next season! I’m well past the teenage target group(45) & the only one in my house who can handle a show like this so have to watch when my husband isn’t home & my (too young @ 10yrs) daughter isn’t around! lol

  12. I loved this show! Sadly to say, I watched the first season in just a few days… It was very addicting, brought curiosity, and excitement. I believe the critics were just looking for negativity, and not just relaxing and enjoying this wonderful series !