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Netflix’s Ted Sarandos still won’t talk numbers but talks Adam Sandler

2015 Summer TCA media tour

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos speaks onstage July 28 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills during the 2015 Summer TCA media tour.

(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

It took just six minutes for Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos to get hit with a question on viewership data Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour.  

And he answered with a chuckle.

“Did you think if we did this early enough, I might be tired and fall into it?” Sarandos quipped.

The streaming giant kicked off the biannual fete in Beverly Hills, in which networks—and more and more, streaming services—unveil their lineups for the coming season to press. And when a reporter tried to get Sarandos to at least reveal which of the streaming service’s original series is the most-watched, Sarandos’ answer was in keeping with Netflix’s tight-lipped nature.

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“The reason we don’t like propping them against one another is it’s not the intent to draw the biggest audience from any given show,” Sarandos said, later singling out the cultural chatter surrounding “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Daredevil.”

He continued: “The shows are built and designed and we test them based on the audience we believe the show can attract. And it’s successful when it attracts that audience segment. None of those shows are designed to attract the whole 65-million subscriber base.”

Tina Fey, during a separate panel for “Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt,” said she’s also in the dark about ratings data. But she likes it that way.

“We know Ted is pleased,” she said, adding that it “feels” like more people are watching than they did with “30 Rock.” “But we don’t have any numbers. It’s very freeing to be away from the ratings system.”

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During the span of the 20-minute executive session, Sarandos answered questions on a possible new season of “Arrested Development” (“We’re plugging away”) and the upcoming “Full House” spinoff that will star most of its original cast (“we’re very excited about the idea of co-viewing, which is very rare in television today”)—and even made some jabs at its linear competitors for borrowing its model of releasing episodes all at once.

“What looked like a radical move has become commonplace, #Aquarius or something like that,” Sarandos said, poking at the NBC bear.

It’s quite the turnaround from just three years ago when Netflix had just two original shows to its name and was an afterthought at TCA.  It now boasts the most panels of any network (11) and is home to 16 scripted comedies and dramas, totaling 475 hours of original programming.

But it wasn’t all about TV. Sarandos also addressed the streaming service’s upcoming exclusive four-movie deal with Adam Sandler, which includes the already controversial “The Ridiculous Six.”

Sandler’s latest feature film, Sony’s “Pixels,” opened at No. 2 over the weekend with $24 million in the U.S. Asked whether the film’s performance had Netflix reconsidering its investment in the funnyman, Sarandos pointed to the film’s international draw.

“I don’t have to defend Adam Sandler,” Sarandos said. “‘Pixels’ did $24 million domestically. But a third of our subscribers are outside of the U.S. We did the deal with him because he’s a global movie star.… We’re as encouraged as ever. That split of U.S. and international box office is what got us excited.” 

I tweet about TV (and other things) here: @villarrealy

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