Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, says his service is helping attract viewers to broadcast and cable shows. “What’s really exciting for us is to bring new people to a show,” Sarandos says. “More people watched the first season of Mad Men on Netflix than on AMC.” And with its recent foray into original programming, it hopes to expand its role.
“For every TV show, Netflix is a net positive,” says Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix. He sat down Tuesday with former NBCUniversal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin at the ongoing NATPE conference in Miami Beach, Fla. They discussed issues such as Netflix’s impact on TV programming and the company’s double stumbles last year when it raised prices and separated its DVD and streaming video units into two businesses.
Sarandos says that Netflix attracts new viewers to a show like AMC’s Mad Men and provides a platform for small shows with loyal audiences, like Fox’s canceled Arrested Development, which is being revived for a fourth season on Netflix.
“What’s really exciting for us is to bring new people to a show,” Sarandos says. “More people watched the first season of Mad Men on Netflix than on AMC.”
He estimates that 60% of the time that Netflix subscribers stream content it’s to watch a TV show, compared to only about 15% of the time with Netflix DVDs.
He uses the word “binge” to describe a Netflix subscriber habit where they watch dozens of episodes of a series over one weekend. He says they catch up on a show and then turn to linear TV to watch new episodes.
Netflix is also becoming a provider of programming with its upcoming original Lilyhammer, a show starring Steven Van Zandt that’s shot in Norway. The show will be only partly in English with English subtitles. The entire season of the show will be released on one day — Feb. 6. “It’s a very good show,” Sarandos says.
He also says that Netflix’s much-publicized stumbles last year were not strategic mistakes but poorly communicated changes the company needs to make. He says Netflix subscribers are willing to pay a higher price for content, though Netflix backtracked on that when subscribers balked. And he says that slowly but surely DVDs are fading away, so subscribers are ready for that.
Still, he acknowledges that the company should have done a better job of preparing its customers for those changes, which Netflix reversed, for now.
He also underscored Netflix’s growing stature at NATPE, where TV producers from around the world sell programming to TV stations, cable networks and streaming services.
“We’re one of the biggest buyers at NATPE,” he says. “Maybe the biggest.”