The threat of seeing a show canceled is enough to discourage two in five Americans from starting to watch
March 20th, 2023, Mike Woods

The threat of seeing a show canceled is enough to discourage two in five Americans from starting to watch

2022 was the year of cancellations for various SVOD (subscription video on demand) platforms. Over 100 titles came to an end, often abruptly, disconcerting series' creators and viewers alike. Of the various active SVOD services, Netflix is perhaps the most well-known for its proclivity to draw the curtains on its next-season orders just one or two seasons in - and often, on a cliff-hanger.

In a recent YouGov Surveys study, more than a third of American adults (31%) who watch original shows on streaming services estimated that between one and three of such shows they started to watch since February 2022 were cancelled, despite ending with unresolved storylines.

Given the number of titles that face the axe without any notice, there has been widespread speculation that just because they don’t attract a high enough viewership in an arbitrary time period, series that are not mega-hits right off the bat are in rough waters. But do American viewers think it worth investing time in a show unless its already ended or until they know it's going to have a finished arc?

Almost half of American adults who watch original shows on streaming services with multiple seasons and connected storylines (46%) say they always or sometimes wait for such shows to end completely (with the last episode of the last season or show finale available to watch) before they start watching.

Americans aged 18-34 are the most likely of all age groups to agree, with a quarter (25%) saying they always wait and more than a third (34%) saying they sometimes wait to watch such shows until they end completely.

On the other hand, more than two-fifths of our respondents aged 55 and above (43%) say that it makes no difference whether the show has finished or not, while nearly a fifth of them (19%) never wait and watch each season as it releases.

A further analysis of the data to understand why this these viewers prefer to wait for shows to end completely before they start watching reveals some interesting nuances.

One in four adults in the US say that they wait for streaming originals to end completely before they start watching because they’re either afraid of shows being cancelled with an unresolved ending (27%) or because they do not like to wait for a new season if the previous one ends on a cliff-hanger (24%).

Men (30%) are far more concerned with unresolved endings and incomplete story arcs than women (24%). On the other hand, our female respondents (30%) are far more likely to bothered by the wait for a new season when the previous one ends on a cliff-hanger than our male respondents (19%).

Interestingly, women in the US (50%) are also more likely than men (46%) to wait for a show to end completely as they prefer to binge watch all seasons continuously, at once.

As part of this YouGov Surveys study, we also explore the American viewer’s propensity to watch a newly discovered series/show - on an SVOD platform - they find interesting, even though it only has one season which ends on a cliff-hanger.

Nearly two-fifths of adults in the US (37%) indicate that they would watch the first season of the show regardless of its chances of being cancelled on a cliff-hanger.

On the other hand, knowing that a show may be cancelled with unresolved endings after the first season can reduce the chances of more than a quarter of 18-34-year-olds (26%) watching it while stopping almost a fifth (19%) from watching the show at all.

Evidently, cancelling original shows before they reach a natural ending with resolved storylines is a pain point for a substantial proportion of American viewers.

With growing conjecture about streaming services like Netflix creating a self-fulfilling cancellation loop with series that could have gone on to become valuable catalogue additions, the question remains – are American viewers who ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ wait to stream shows, willing to risk watching a newly released original show (or new season of an existing show) if it could prevent its cancellation?

And the answer looks promising. While more than a quarter of our respondents (26%) say they would be “definitely willing” to start watching a newly released show before it ends completely to prevent its cancellation, more than two-fifths (41%) are “somewhat willing” to do the same.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online from February 9 – 10, 2023 with a nationally representative sample of 1,169 adults in the US (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted to be nationally representative. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.