Last month, Netflix launched in six new European markets and now serves 50M subscribers in 50 countries around the world. Pretty soon, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said this morning, Asia will be the only place Netflix isn’t embedded. While he didn’t confirm or deny that a team is being assembled in Tokyo to explore opportunities, he told a Media Mastermind panel at Mipcom that the company has “desires to be global” and said Japan “would be a very interesting scale play” because the biggest consumers of Japanese animation — aside from the very strong home market — are America and France, where Netflix conveniently has bases.
Sarandos made the comments after an interviewer put him in the hot seat on the issue, but also following a chat about Marco Polo, the upcoming Weinstein Co series that debuts December 12 on Netflix in all of its 50 territories. The “very big epic” production employed over 800 cast and crew, Sarandos said, and attendees at the discussion this morning were treated to the first footage. It was suggested it was Netflix’s very own Game Of Thrones. Sarados responded, “It’s very different tonally, so I wouldn’t want to compare it to Game Of Thrones, but it’s definitely on that scale.”
Across the conversation, Sarandos had to refrain from answering certain questions because Netflix announces its earnings tomorrow. He allowed that the recent launches in France and other European countries have seen viewing on par with other successful launches elsewhere. Orange Is The New Black is the most popular series in France and Germany. “There’s a real desire for things that people have heard about, but not been able to see like Fargo and Orange Is The New Black,” Sarandos said. (House Of Cards rights in certain markets were already sold to other outlets.)
While Netflix has steadily expanded overseas, the recent launch in six territories was a bold play. Sarandos couldn’t comment too expansively but said, “I have no doubt that we’ll be profitable around the world, but right now, we are in a serious investment stage.”
Turning to the subject of movies and Netflix’s partnership on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend as well as a four-film deal with Adam Sandler, Sarandos lamented, “The current distribution model for movies, in the U.S. particularly, but also around the world, is pretty antiquated relative to the on-demand generation that we’re trying to serve.” There was an exhibitor backlash when the Crouching Tiger deal was announced and Sarandos appeared to attempt to quell that a bit when he urged people to go see the epic film in theaters or in IMAX if they chose. “I don’t want to kill windowing, I want to restore choice and options,” he said.
“We want to accelerate the model by putting our money where our mouth is and say we’ll release movies day-and-date in theaters and on Netflix, and we’ll fund the movies.”
The first Adam Sandler project will be ready in late 2015 or early 2016 –- and will go only to Netflix. Sarandos called it “a big deal because for the last 20 years Adam Sandler has had a movie in theaters every summer.”
Of another new area for Netflix — ‘late-night’ TV — Sarandos said Chelsea Handler‘s new show will skew away from the gossipy elements of her Chelsea Lately program on E! “It won’t be anything” like it, he said, noting it will include sketch comedy and interviews. Netflix just released her stand-up special and Sarandos called it “a great reminder what a fantastic stand-up and storyteller she is.”