Netflix announces final season of little-loved "Hemlock Grove" as it tries to build on early successes
Well, looks like the answer is both, as the Hollywood Reporter learned today that the show will be returning for a third, but final, season.
Despite a lackluster critical response, "Hemlock Grove" has a strong cult following -- which makes sense given the show's excessive gore. But as Sarah Lacy has written, Netflix doesn't necessarily need mainstream acceptance of its television programs. For example, when CEO Reed Hastings saw a huge number of viewers drop off after Frank Underwood kills a dog in the first scene of "House of Cards," his response wasn't, "OK writers, we need less dog killing, here." It was to identify the audience members who could stomach a protagonist capable of such a deed, then target them accordingly with content Netflix thinks they'll like.
The trouble is, if Frank Underwood was on "Hemlock Grove" he probably would have killed the dog, taken it home, skinned it on camera, then fed it to his family raw.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Katie O'Connell, CEO of Gaumont International Television which produces the show, suggested that it was the strong support of a few vocal fans, and not necessarily widespread viewership or award show prestige, that led to its renewal: "The fan support of Hemlock Grove has been amazing and we are thrilled Netflix recognizes this and is rewarding the fans with a third and final season."
As Netflix attempts to provide the same consistent quality in programming as, say, HBO, it will have to learn to weigh how much value a show like "Hemlock Grove," which may hold a deep appeal but to a much smaller audience than "House of Cards," has to the company. Sure, it will learn a lot about the type of person who watches every "Hemlock Grove" episode, but it also has limited development resources and must know when to cut its losses on a show that isn't working. That said, it's worth noting that with less star-power, "Hemlock Grove" may be cheaper to make than "House of Cards," thus affording it more time to find an audience.
Netflix has much different factors to weigh when ending a show than a traditional network. Though Netflix's production budget is limited, its programming time is not -- no need to cut down the Thursday Primetime lineup to only four shows the way NBC has to. It also collects valuable data on users from their television-watching habits, even if the sample size of viewers on a given show is relatively small. Plus those horror fans who came for "Hemlock Grove" will hopefully stick around for Netflix's wide selection of gory thrillers.
In any case, Netflix is still looking for a third show to attract the attention and love of "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black." And as networks like AMC have learned, what with "Breaking Bad" done, "Mad Men," on its way out, and other non-"Walking Dead" offerings achieving only modest success, scaling quality content is no easy task.
[image via Netflix]