Netflix's Cindy Holland on Volume Play, Cancelations, 'Stranger Things' Delay

WIE 2017 Power 100 - Cindy Holland  -Photographed By Ramona Rosales - H 2017
Photographed By Ramona Rosales

Netflix vp original programming Cindy Holland arrived Sunday for her first turn in front of the Television Critics Association's press tour with a personalized introduction about herself that was designed to disarm the reporters gathered in the Beverly Hilton ballroom.

“I grew up a nerdy little kid in Nebraska and I didn’t have very many role models,” she said as an awkward elementary school class photo of Holland flashed on the screen.

She explained that she looked to TV for role models — and found one in Charlie’s Angels’ Sabrina Duncan, the brainy angel played by Kate Jackson. She was smart, wore pants and turtlenecks and drove a Pinto.

“She was part of a team, she was cool and didn’t seem to care that she was different from anyone else,” explained Holland. And now, as a grownup, the exec is “proud” to work at a company that reflects and serves a vast and diverse audience of 130 million subscribers. She went on to stress the company’s core mission of "access, personalization and choice” and the analytics and data-crunching that segments users into “2,000 taste communities.”

Holland announced some pickups from the stage, including Octavia Spencer’s Madam C.J. Walker, about America’s first black female millionaire, and White Lines, from Money Heist creator Alex Pina. But that was basically the extent of the disclosures from Holland, who it should be noted is rather reserved and seemingly highly press-shy. Peppered with questions about the future of several of the streaming service’s series and overall deals, her answers segued between “We haven’t discussed it” to “I have nothing to share with you today.”

On an impending overall deal with Blackish and Girls Trip creator Kenya Barish: “Kenya is a really talented writer and producer, but I don’t have anything to share with you today.”

On whether there will be more Arrested Development and if so, would Jeffrey Tambor be involved: “We have not discussed it at all.”

On Netflix's multiyear deal with Barack and Michelle Obama: "It's so early in the deal and we have nothing to share just yet." 

On whether there is interest in more Gilmore Girls from Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is busy on Amazon’s Emmy-nominated The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: “We are big fans of Amy. I love the show, but we have not discussed it at all. I don’t have anything to share with you.”

Holland did allow, however, that she would like to have a third season of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None when Ansari “is ready.” She didn’t elaborate further.

Here are the few things that were gleaned from the panel: 

Stranger Things' Delay

When Netflix unveiled the new teaser trailer for the third season of Stranger Things, the streamer also revealed that the series wouldn't return until summer 2019. That would mean a year-and-a-half break between seasons. (There were 15 months between season one and season two.) Stranger Things, Holland explained, is "a hand-crafted show." She added that creators the Duffer Brothers and executive producer Shawn Levy "understand the stakes are high. They want to deliver something bigger and better than what they did last year." In an effort to dispel any concerns, she added, "It'll be worth the wait."

Anatomy of a Cancelation

As Netflix has started to dole out cancelations to a handful of its shows, questions have swirled around how the streamer is making those decisions. One show that critics were disappointed to see end after one season was Ben York Jones' Everything Sucks! Holland acknowledged the fierce fan community around the show, adding that she was "passionate" about the show herself. "It had a passionate and good audience coming in, but what we were finding is that there were far fewer people than average who were completing the season," she explained, and that "the audience size really just wasn't there" to justify the expense of a second season. 

Potential Revivals

Anytime a linear show gets canceled, rumors swirl about whether Netflix or another streamer will save it from an untimely death, like the streamer did with the Fox drama Lucifer. But Holland wasn't willing to share good news about the recently canceled Shadowhunters or Timeless. Freeform axed Shadowhunters in June, announcing that the show would end after the final 12 episodes of its third season air in 2019. The loss of an output deal with Netflix was blamed for the decision. Holland noted that the show's fan base is fervent. "I probably get 100 emails a day or more personally" about the show," she said to laughs. But aside from noting that the final 12 episodes would be available on Netflix next year, she didn't give any indication about picking up more seasons. Later, she was asked about whether there was interest in NBC's Timeless, which was canceled after two seasons. But it joined the list of projects about which Holland didn't have an answer. "To be honest, I'm not aware of any real conversations about Timeless," she said.