The Screening Room’s proposed premium VOD service would be “a great way” to broaden the audience for films that Netflix introduces, Chief Creative Officer Ted Sarandos told investors today in a call to discuss company earnings and prospects.
“We wouldn’t mind having our films available on that product,” he said — a position that puts Netflix further at odds with movie theaters eager to protect their exclusive hold on new films. “Our focus is on movie lovers and movie fans and trying to get the product that they want at reasonable prices.”
The leading chains already refuse to run Netflix productions that also debut on the streaming service. That will become increasingly important as it picks up more big budget films. For example, it recently agreed to pay $90 million for a cop thriller, Bright, featuring Will Smith.
Netflix hopes to offer a full range of films. “Whether or not a movie at the Star Wars level makes sense, we’ll see,” Sarandos says. The company has been “pretty happy with the direction” of its movie results globally, though he admits, “We’re still learning as we go.”
Netflix execs mostly used their quarterly call to swat away a few of the issues that have been swirling around it lately — including Amazon’s new decision to offer a monthly subscription rate for its Prime service, which includes streaming video as well as free delivery for retail merchandise.
“We’re seeing growth in the overall TV market,” which is “part of the natural evolution from linear TV” to streaming, CEO Reed Hastings said during the conference call.
He wouldn’t worry if Amazon included linear channels in its bundle. “We’re very focused on global competition,” Hastings says. “We’re focused on content we can have around the world. That’s why we’re investing in original movies and original series. … That’s very different from carrying other people’s single-nation networks. It’s a very different business.”
He dismissed recent criticism of the company for throttling speeds for transmissions to AT&T and Verizon’s mobile customers.
“The advantage was to avoid those data plan overages that are pretty unique to mobile,” Hastings says.
Netflix privately had been slowing speeds on the services for about five years. But the disclosure startled many who believe any throttling would violate the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Those rules bar Internet distributors from slowing other people’s transmissions. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said his agency would not investigate.
On other matters, Hastings says he’s keeping an “open mind” about the possibility of allowing subscribers to download content so they can watch when not connected to the Internet.
And Sarandos says he has “no interest in live sports, currently.” That last qualifier means company watchers will continue to speculate about its potential interest in rights to major league contracts.
Hastings doesn’t see virtual reality becoming relevant for his company “for the next couple of years.” It mostly will be for gamers. “Watching a TV show with a VR headset — I don’t think that will be very popular.”