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Warrior Nun - #SaveWarriorNun Campaign - Editorial: Unfinished Stories And Why This Campaign Matters

1 Feb 2023

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Disclaimer Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.
There is one constant that every television fan can’t avoid, at some point, a beloved show will be canceled. It isn’t a matter of if, but when. Cancellation is one of a television fan’s most hated aspects of consuming entertainment content. So many stories have simply gone unfinished because studios and networks no longer see the value in them. Imagine it this way, a book publisher has a finished book in their hands, but suddenly they decide that the last handful of chapters that conclude the story wouldn’t bring in enough money to justify them, so they publish the book minus the ending. Of course, that’s not going to happen. A book in a series may be canceled, but a whole book would never have its ending chopped off. The same courteousness has never fully translated to television. When a story starts, it is not promised an ending, so we all essentially start watching a story unfold with zero certainties that we will ever see it properly concluded. This has been going on as long as television has existed, and we’ve all just accepted it as the norm. But should we?

No, we shouldn’t. Studios, networks, and streaming services need to change their operating practices. They treat television shows as commodities instead of stories. It’s so easy to dispose of a commodity when it isn’t viewed as a story that needs an ending. Even the tech industry knows you can’t suddenly pull a product without warning. A product may not last as long as some wish, but they are generally allowed to come to a suitable conclusion. Consumers are made aware that a product is coming out of production. They are allowed time to mourn it and savor the final days, weeks, or months with it before it is gone forever. Television fans do get that on rare occasions, but it’s never a guarantee. We are at a stage in this industry now where terms like “unrenewed” had to be coined to explain how even shows that are renewed can be suddenly scrapped. What this has done is sew a growing fever of distrust between the viewers and the companies that depend on those viewers they are now driving away.

Shows have lower ratings today than at the turn of the century. It’s easy to explain that away by the growing popularity of the internet and streaming services, and true, those things are a factor, but it also has to do with viewers not wanting to start a story until they know it is allowed to come to a proper or satisfactory ending. That means that ratings take a hit because they lose a large subset of potential viewers that aren’t willing to invest in a story that they don’t trust will ever end. We have all probably lost count by this point of how many of our beloved shows have never, and will never, be allowed to end. So many half-told stories are left in eternal limbo.

It’s easy to complain about this phenomenon. It’s easy to hate the studios and the networks for what they do, but we also have to consider that they are a business. The industry still has to make money, we can't expect them to operate at a deficit just for our entertainment. They have debts to pay and employees that don't work for free. With that said, someone needs to take bold steps to change the status quo that keeps leading to these unfinished shows forever lost in limbo. Something needs to change so a better balance can be struck between the financial needs of a company and the satisfaction of the consumer. Every show we watch, every streaming service we buy into, and every ad we watch or skip is a part of a grander business model. A model that has sustained the industry since its inception, that despite some incremental evolution over the decades, still hasn’t fully evolved to properly represent viewership in this century. Without a change to the models being used this trend of hard-to-justify cancelations will continue and only grow more prolific in nature. Today’s viewers aren’t like viewers of yesteryear. Viewers today want complete stories. In fact, they have turned to demanding them to mixed results.

Fan campaigns have existed for many decades, but have been revolutionized and fundamentally evolved by the internet age, allowing viewers who love the same beloved series to more easily unite and demand change on a global level. The philosophy behind fan campaigns is that if a studio or network sees the potential untapped financial value behind a series they previously thought lacked value, they’ll at least give it enough time to properly conclude and come to an end. They aren’t a perfect solution. They don’t always work. More often than not, they fail. But even those campaigns that fail still serve a purpose. They show the shortcomings of a network. They make it look bad to future viewers who see that even a dedicated fanbase with many untapped financial resources does not guarantee that a series they may start watching will ever be concluded. It aids in discouraging potential viewers from trusting their valuable time to a streaming service or network known to cancel at a whim. In this age where there are an infinite amount of entertainment viewing options a viewer is more likely to invest in the place where they have the most optimal opportunity to see a complete story told. 

Netflix has recently come under fire for this very issue, canceling shows without logical reason at times. However, as new Netflix co-CEO, Ted Sarandos explained in a recent Bloomberg interview, “We have never canceled a successful show.” Anyone who has ever followed the comings and goings of the streamer immediately knew that was a false statement. What transpired after that was a firestorm, the likes of which made even Warner Discovery look good. This was an impressive feat, given how much turmoil and hatred Warner Discovery went through in 2022 for their controversial cancellation decisions.

For Netflix, this is a huge change from the service that once used to be known as the place to go to watch complete shows. The network openly admitted to making a mistake when they canceled Sense8 only to bring it back briefly to properly conclude, thus having a series that a new audience can still come back to and enjoy for a long time to come knowing it has an actual ending. They were the streamer that essentially launched the Streaming Wars and now seem to be struggling under the weight of their own success. Their success led almost all of the major studios to launch their own streaming service while subsequently wrestling away their original content from Netflix’s library. What that has seemingly led to is Netflix entering panic mode as they bled subscribers. They greenlit so much randomness trying to beef up their originals library, which led to them being stretched too thin to properly promote the mass majority of their originals. What happens when nobody knows about a certain show in a library of thousands of other shows? It gets lost and doesn’t get watched. Meaning, that fewer eyes seeing the show makes it hard to justify the cost of the series that Netflix has essentially doomed and basically wasting their own money by doing so. Thusly, they cancel yet another show, and before the firestorm from that cancellation ends, they are already pushing a whole new batch of shows to production, of which very few will ever see a second season let alone a satisfying conclusion. Netflix is being called out here primarily, but this is a problem that almost all of the fledgling streaming services are also struggling with, perhaps why they are all bleeding so much money and struggling to get the subscriber counts they want. They are all facing one fan campaign or another for doing the exact same thing as Netflix. 

Perhaps there is no more prolific recent example than the campaign that emerged from the untimely cancellation of Warrior Nun. Netflix put the absolute bare minimum into promoting the first season back in 2020. The series garnered a second season renewal almost entirely on the backs of the cast and creator Simon Barry stepping up and launching their own extraordinary campaign to let people know to watch the show. They rallied those early fans who spread the word on social media rapidly and helped garner an impressive and vocal fandom. If it wasn’t for the cast and Barry realizing Netflix had essentially forsaken them and taken immediate action, they would have never gotten a second-season renewal. It’s fairly obvious coming into the launch for Season Two that there was no doubt this same group knew Netflix didn’t have their backs, so the moment they could, they went back into full campaign mode. Sadly, this time, Netflix didn’t seem to care how immensely popular the show was. It’s as though they came into this season already washing their hands of it with no intention of renewing it, no matter how well it did.

The second season wasn’t just well received by fans, but by critics alike, and that is an exceedingly rare accomplishment these days. So, to say that Warrior Nun was canceled because it isn’t a “successful show” is a slap in the face. Sarandos would have been better off being entirely honest and saying the show is expensive and leadership doesn’t care about it, so it was easier to cancel it than to actually fund further seasons when they are instead funding so many other shows they are also going to cancel before a second season. Why fund something that is actually successful when you can blow that same money on a handful of other shows that will fail due to a lack of support from the same streamer? There is a simple answer here, stop green-lighting everything under the sun that already isn’t going to receive a decent budget or any promotion. If they aren’t willing to give the creative team the budget they request to produce the best quality show, don’t send it into production in the first place. Having mediocre shows on the platform with incomplete stories makes the whole service look bad, especially when canceling social media darling shows that can help turn around the negative narrative building around the service.

There have been a lot of successful campaigns in recent years that led to shows being saved and allowed to come to a proper conclusion. Ironically, some of those shows, Lucifer and Manifest were saved by Netflix. The number of shows actually saved versus the number of fan campaigns launched is very minimal. So, why does this Warrior Nun campaign in particular matter so much? If it is successful, and we all certainly hope it is, it would hopefully be a wake-up call to Netflix in the vein of Sense8 reminding them that they can't keep on this way. They must pay attention to having completed shows in their catalog if they expect to stay afloat and survive long-term. With a huge catalog full of incomplete shows, all they will succeed at doing is alienating even more consumers and driving others away who don’t want to invest in a service with shows lacking an ending. This will cause their already struggling-to-grow subscribe count to drop off more drastically. They need to evaluate sending fewer shows to production and stand behind the shows that are giving them not just the financial kick-back they want and need, but they also need to take into account the long-term value that comes with heavily hyped social media shows.

They need the beloved social media shows just as desperately at this point to secure their business model. They must also evaluate the equation used to determine what shows to renew or pick up because their current equation is clearly flawed. When a show like Warrior Nun can spend a total of 9 weeks in the Global Top 10 and 6 consecutive weeks in the US Top 10 yet still get canceled, there is a bigger issue at play.

Thanks to The Order of the Cruciform Spreadsheet for this graphic.

These stats by all accounts depict a successful show. The power of the social media campaign to save the show indicates the untapped power of the series as a whole. What comes next will tell us a lot about the future stability of the service as a whole. They are already set to implement a highly unpopular program to stop password sharing. If they want those folks they are about to alienate to consider them worthy of their hard-earned money, then they need to prove to those people, as well as current subscribers one cancellation away from canceling their subscription, that they are a service worthy of investing in. They need to once again become the place where a viewer can invest their time with the expectation of getting to see a complete series from start to finish.

Truthfully, though, at this point, Warrior Nun would be far better off at just about any other streamer. It could be a virtual goldmine for the multitude of other streamers each struggling to find that golden ticket that puts them on the map. Even if Netflix tries to rectify its mistake, there is little hope that it will give more promotional effort than before. Letting it go to a new home where it may get multiple more seasons is better than the meager option that Netflix would likely offer: a few measly hours to conclude a story meant to span many seasons. Who knows, maybe Netflix could surprise us all and not just renew it but give it a few seasons to conclude properly. Weirder things have happened in the 2020s, so never say never when it comes to anything this decade.

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how this campaign plays out. The outcome of this could play a pivotal role in campaigns like #SaveFirstKill, #SaveVampireAcademy, #SaveTheWilds, #SaveGentlemanJack, #Save1899, and the list goes on and grows with each cancellation of a beloved series not allowed to finish telling its story. This issue isn’t just a Netflix problem, this is an industry problem. Studios constantly launch programming they seem little inclined to promote. Very often these are shows with LGBTQ+ characters, female-led, or persons of color-led that get left behind when promotional dollars are being allocated. The industry has gotten better about giving shows with diversity a chance, but they need to do better than that. Sending a series to production because it checks off some diversity criteria then not promoting it and not letting it tell a full story is still a disservice to the communities they seem to want to pretend to be inclusive of. But, to be fair, as noted earlier, this industry is a business, so there needs to be a balance of making money that can be spent on new productions. The same advice that this article gives to Netflix applies to all. Don’t send something to production that they aren’t willing to properly finance and promote. They are better off without a show than canceling it abruptly and dealing with disgruntled consumers left with yet another story untold. Only invest with the intent to see a story through to the conclusion.

While Netflix isn’t the only guilty party, they launched the Streaming Wars and the model that brought on all of these streamer cancellations, so let them fix what they broke. Their cancellation of the ultra-popular Warrior Nun has put them in a very unique position to provoke change and set a new precedent. The next move is theirs to make. Even if a renewal by Netflix or a save by another platform happens, it could be months before the fans know anything. Between contract negotiations and ironing out legalities, it'll take that long before anyone involved would be free to say anything is happening. So, the best everyone involved with the campaign can do is not to stop. Keep charging ahead because you are being heard. If all these media publications and social media platforms have felt the impact, so will Netflix and its competitors. We at SpoilerTV stand with and are united in this fight with the #SaveWarriorNun campaign. It is only fitting to end this article with – In this life…may we see Warrior Nun return.

Thanks to The Order of the Cruciform Spreadsheet for this graphic.

Please use the comments to discuss what makes Warrior Nun special for you.