Cindy Holland, VP of content for Netflix, took the stage at Recode’s Code Conference alongside Natasha Lyonne for a Russian Doll–centric panel discussion, but also offered her view of the controversial cancellation of One Day at a Time.
Holland agreed with moderator Kara Swisher’s assessment that the reboot was a “well-done show,” but said there were headwinds throughout its three-season run. Netflix’s decision to cut the show loose elicited howls across the internet and among a large swath of the media and critical establishment. For Holland, though, the decision was a rational, albeit difficult, one.
“The basic calculation is, how much viewing are we getting for what it costs?” Holland said of the general evaluation process at the streaming giant, which has roughly 60 scripted originals in the U.S. (and thousands of titles worldwide). “We also look at, is it reaching different audiences? Is it gaining critical acclaim? Is it doing something for us as a business that we like?”
Based on first-season numbers for One Day at a Time, she continued, “We wouldn’t have renewed that show on a viewing-to-cost basis. But it was such a well-made show, and we were so proud of Norman [Lear, producer of the original and the reboot] Gloria [Calderon Kellett], Mike Royce and everybody involved with it that we wanted to see, could we broaden the audience, could it gain a some more steam. And it would grow a little bit, but we just couldn’t find the broad audience we hoped it could get and it deserved to get. And so, after three seasons, we decided to end it.”
Lyonne, who co-created and stars in Russian Doll, said the data-driven determination of budgets and renewals is a more-than-acceptable tradeoff for the creative freedom and the open-ended possibilities of working on the streaming platform. “I take a bit of relief in the algorithm, if I’m being honest,” she said.
Swisher asked Holland about the intensifying competition in streaming, with Disney, WarnerMedia, Apple and NBCUniversal all prepping major new services. “I don’t think there’s any one that stands out as the competitor,” she said. “Hulu’s been growing nicely, but they’re domestic-only at this point.” The executive added that she would “love” to see Disney+ succeed. “We welcome it.”