Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos came prepared for battle and did face a barrage of questions over the streaming service’s policy of not releasing any viewership data for its shows and movies.
The issue has been a major topic of discussion at TCA since NBC on Wednesday presented a research study that included third-party provided adults 18-49 ratings for streaming services, including several Netflix series, Jessica Jones, Narcos and Masters of None.
Sarandos dismissed the methodology and accuracy of the numbers reported, calling it a “really remarkably inaccurate data” that “doesn’t reflect any reality.” He stressed that the adults 18-49 demographic, used by networks to sell advertising “is so insignificant (for a non-ad-supported service), we don’t track it.”
Sarandos called NBC’s decision to discuss Netflix ratings performance “a mystery why they would use their lunch slot with you to talk about our ratings. Maybe because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings.”
He deflected several attempts by critics to unveil ratings data even just to compact inaccurate reporting by competitors. “There is upside in me getting it right,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do with the data.”
He reiterated several times during the panel that ratings are not relevant to Netflix’s model, especially given its global reach and the methodology of ratings-gathering.”The samples don’t give you enough information,” he said.
Netflix has made a couple of exceptions in the past that Sarandos addressed today — once calling Orange Is the New Black the most watched show, which Sarandos again said is true contingent of how the measurement is done; Beasts of No Nation, whose opening weekend viewership Netflix released to counter the low box-office numbers because “people were watching it at level that an indie had not seen before”; and for Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6 to prove that the big, multi-film deal the company made with Sandler was a good investment.
Sarandos also deflected a question about Netflix’s profitability (or lack thereof), raised by FX CEO John Landgraf yesterday, who also argued that TV ratings should be public. Sarandos noted that Netflix will spend $6 billion in cash on content — original and acquired — in 2016, offwring its 70 million subscribers more than 600 hours of new original content. The focus will be on four-quadrant fare. Netflix is next “doubling down on kids and family programming,” he said.
As for the “Is there too much television” debate, “we don’t think there is,” Sarandos said. “If there is, someone has to slow down, because we have big plans for 2016 and beyond.”
On other topics, Sarandos said that Netflix has no plans to go into live programming, opting to stick to “core consumer proposition is on-demand TV.” Deals for the Gilmore Girls movies are still “being buttoned down.”
The new Baz Luhrmann hip-hop drama The Get Down will be released in two installments, with the first six episodes premiering in 2016. Sarandos that the decision to break up the season into two was specific to the series, which has had its production challenges. “Baz productions take time,” Sarandos said. “Creatively the show had a natural break, and it allowed us to accelerate the delivery.