UPDATE, 10 AM: After slamming the door entirely to any discussion about Netflix talks to stream The Interview — or whether Netflix even was still in talks –– during his Q&A session kicking off Winter TV Press Tour 2015, its chief content officer Ted Sarandos suddenly opened the door a tiny sliver in a scrum out in the hallway, saying he’s still hoping to bring the controversial Sony comedy to his streaming service. “People want to see the movie and we want to be able to deliver the movie.”
PREVIOUS, 9:32 AM: Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos refused to answer questions in re whether the streaming operation plans to offer Sony’s controversial movie The Interview any time soon. “I’m not going to talk about The Interview right now,” was the closest thing to an answer reporters got from him this morning to kick off Winter TV Press Tour 2015 in Pasadena.
Asked why he would not talk about it, Sarandos said he would not talk about that either. He could not resist, however, noting that the movie’s unorthodox distribution, after major theater owners opted out when hackers threatened theatergoers, is a “great example of what can happen with a big-budget movie if you give them distribution choices,” adding, “I hope it’s eye-opening for the industry.”
Cable, satellite, telecom, and online VOD numbers in on Sony’s The Interview, showing Seth Rogen and James Franco’s controversial comedy “is Sony Pictures’ #1 online film of all time,” the studio trumpeted yesterday. While Sony’s limited theatrical release brought in $5 million, The Interview notched a whopping $31 million with 4.3 million transactions from film rentals and sales between December 24 and January 4. Sony made the most of The Interview hacking fiasco and, as studio head Michael Lynton promised, released it in its “widest possible distribution” after the major theater chains bowed out en masse early on.
One TV critic at the press tour tried another route to get Sarandos to talk about The Interview, asking whether he was hesitating with a deal because of Netflix’s Asian expansion push.
“The one beauty of being an on-demand service, you just don’t push ‘Play’,” Sarandos said, dodging the specific movie reference. “If a show offends your sensibility you just just don’t push ‘Play’…there is no way you’re going to stumble on it…It gives you license to push the envelope.”
Asked about the return of Arrested Development, Sarandos said he was “very optimistic” about its return but that it’s “incredibly complicated show to do because of how incredibly busy” the cast is. He declined to discuss the next season’s storyline. Sarandos and Will Arnett in August confirmed the long-gestating fifth season of Arrested Development on Netflix. Sarandos said it was “just a matter of time” and Arnett echoed that the timeline was “fuzzy.”
Once again Sarandos swatted away reporters’ complaints that Netflix does not release viewing statistics. Netflix does not sell ads and does not have to broker carriage deals with distributors, which he insisted — again — render ratings irrelevant. “Beyond that, if we were to report….it would be a real apples and oranges problem. Netflix is a global platform,” he explained patiently. Ratings, he added, “work negatively in terms of the creative process.” He closed this latest chapter in his ongoing ratings squabble with reporters with the promise, “we’re going to stay away from it as long as we can.”
“I know it’s frustrating, because you like to report those ratings,” he snarked.
Later in the Q&A, however, he could not resist taking a swipe at Nielsen, saying there was not much point, from Netflix’s point of view, in “perpetuating inaccurate numbers.”
Speaking of Arrested Development, one TV critic wondered if, now that it’s in the original series business, Netflix still is in the “resurrection” business. Yes, Netflix still is in the “resurrection” business — “opportunistically,” Sarandos said. “Longmire was one we resurrected,” he said, of the drama series Netflix, picked up for a 10-episode fourth season, three months after its cancellation by A&E after three seasons. It will premiere in 2015 in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Continuing that series “did not work well” for A&E, but “it will work well on Netflix,” Sarandos said. The service already has the rights to the previous seasons of the contemporary crime thriller, as part of its multi-series streaming deal with Warner Bros.