“We don’t plan on releasing our metrics,” Netflix‘s Ted Sarandos said today. “There’s no benefit to showing we’re beating said network — we don’t need to,” the streaming service’s chief content officer added during the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s annual programmers luncheon in Beverly Hills. “We’re looking for a proportional success,” he said earlier of what defines success for Netflix. “Because if people vote with their time and their checkbook, they’ll watch,” he noted. “We look at how our shows do compared to other shows,” he added of how Netflix internally assesses its programming. “We know how many hours people watch, the drop-out rates…what devices people are watching on because that says a lot about behavior too.”
“You know in the culture that Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards are enormous hits,” Sarandos said of two of Netflix’s original series.
Other panelists took a different approach discussing their programming philosophy. “I believe in the tantric form of television,” Showtime’s President of Entertainment David Nevins said. “Slow, steady, don’t want to give it to them too soon,” he added to huge laughter from the crowd. Steamy innuendo aside, the cable exec had been debating over philosophies of TV viewing. Sarandos, not surprisingly, was a big proponent of the binge viewing that has come to define Neflix’s original series like House Of Cards.
NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke and Jeff Wachtel, President and Chief Content Officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment joined Nevins and Sarandos on Thursday. Topics included what makes a show a success in today’s multi-platform world, binge viewing, the hunt for the next big show, and whether pilot season should be abandoned. “Going after the same talent does bring the quality down,” Salke said of one of the main critiques of the pilot season mad rush. Salke also noted that getting rid of the institution as Fox’s Kevin Reilly has said, it’s not so easy with the realities of upfronts, advertisers and other constraints of the business. “It sometimes feels like The Hunger Games out there as we’re all competing,” she half-joked earlier. “We’re all looking for the new big show.” Wachtel noted, “breaking through the clutter has never been harder.”
The Programmer’s Summit comes a day after NBC pulled the once-thought-promising The Michael J. Fox Show from its schedule and two days after Netflix confirmed a third season of House Of Cards. It also comes four days after Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s death — the Oscar winner was to executive produce and star in Happyish, which Showtime had picked up to series. The show has been put on hold by the premium cabler. Before today’s panel, Nevins told me he had just returned from NYC and meeting with Happyish creator/executive producer Shalom Auslander. “I don’t know, it’s too soon to say,” he said about the future of the show or whether it would go forward recast. The passing of Hoffman was acknowledged during the panel by all, with Nevins speaking to it directly. “I haven’t processed it personally, let alone as a programmer,” he told the ballroom during the one-hour lunch.