Netflix is currently in an early prime (not Amazon) when it comes to their original programming productions and acquisitions, with far more new series hitting the streaming service weekly than ever before, and that output will only increase with time and, of course, more money. This consistency is extremely new, though, and one of Netflix's earliest projects, the recently cancelled historical drama Marco Polo, ended up costing far too much time and money for the minimal rewards earned by the company. How much money? $200 million, give or take. I will wait for you to stop clutching your heart.
Marco Polo was first picked up by Netflix in 2014 after the project floundered at its original home of Starz, and it made its lavish debut in December of that year, still one of Netflix's first half-dozen original series. (Not that Netflix's money-oozing behavior has changed much.) That first season alone reportedly cost around $90 million, and going through the episodes, it's not hard to believe that this series required an empire's worth of moolah, as all of the visual details are impeccable, from the locations to the costumes to the sets. The same holds true for the second season, which apparently cost even more to make.
Countering all of that praise for the aesthetic was the lack of compliments given to the story itself, which was pretty plodding throughout the historical tale of the legendary titular explorer and the Mongol leader Kublai Khan. (I wasn't that fond of it.) Season 2 was renewed despite all that and made its subdued debut in July, right in the middle of summer blockbuster season, and one could argue Netflix's side here, since superhero movies are starting to routinely cost upwards of $200 million, while providing a tenth of the run-time of Marco Polo's 10-episode seasons. But it's all about the return for the investment, and Netflix has always been opaque about their original series' wins and losses in that respect and others.
According to THR, whose sources revealed the $200 million accumulated price tag, the decision to cancel Marco Polo was a mutual decision between both Netflix's execs and studio The Weinstein Company. But Netflix isn't licking any wounds or anything - not surprising, since $200 million is a blip in the bank for the service - and Marco Polo has still been lauded there. Not for U.S. acclaim but for the drama's success internationally, which is definitely important for the globally expanding company.
So we won't be binge-watching any more horse rides over any 13th century hills in Asia, but that doesn't mean Netflix will only be offering its version of the dollar menu for its original series. Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Get Down also made headlines for breaking past the $100 million price point for Season 1, and the second half of that season is set to debut at some point in 2017. Netflix also has The Defenders coming, along with Lost in Space and other assumedly big-budgeted series, so the money will indeed keep flowing, and the company will indeed keep balancing those costs with animated series, low-cost comedies and stand-up specials.
Now before you go and ponder what you could do with $200 million for the next two years, head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what is coming to the small screen next year.