While Netflix has provided some of the most popular, acclaimed original content on television in recent memory, many viewers feel 13-episode seasons throw off the pacing of the story and seem overlong.
Netflix Vice President of Original Content Cindy Holland has certainly heard these criticisms and has a surprisingly pragmatic reason why many of the early Netflix Original Series continue to run for thirteen-episode seasons despite the complaints: Contract deals.
"In some of the earlier negotiations and deals that we did with third-party studios, we were sort of hamstrung a little bit by the convention of the thirteen-episode cable series pattern," Holland told journalists at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "If you look at the content that we’ve been making out of Netflix Studios, and even with third-party partners now, often the seasons are generally no more than ten episodes."
This explanation lines up with older Netflix series such as House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black running for thirteen episodes per season while newer programming such as Stranger Things or Voltron: Legendary Defender run for eight to ten episodes.
With House of Cards made in partnership with MRC, Orange Is the New Black made with Lionsgate, and the MCU shows such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones made with Marvel Entertainment, the initial production deals to get the shows greenlit were made before knowledge of the notorious "Netflix bloat".
After the shortened eight episode crossover The Defenders and the announcement that Iron Fist's second season will run for ten episodes instead of thirteen, it appears Netflix is taking criticism about overlong seasons to heart.