Netflix Exec Says Big Companies Weighed By Conflicts, But Sees More Consolidation


Investors continue to speculate about the possibility that a big company, perhaps Disney, might try to buy Netflix. But Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos wouldn’t bite when he was asked at the UBS Media and Communications Conference today about whether the streaming power might thrive as part of a larger company.

“We sell customer satisfaction,” he says. And others suffer from “multi-company conflicts….That’s why the product has been differentially successful.”

Even so, he believes consolidation in media “will probably be necessary” at a time when “carriage fees and ad rates are shrinking” for pay TV.

Netflix is taking “measured swings for the fences” in the original shows and movies it approves, Sarandos told the investor group.

“How do you rise above the clutter — and there’s a lot of clutter,” he said in a wide-ranging Q&A session at the conference. “Small stuff seems riskier in an odd way.”

He dinged original productions at competitors including Amazon and Hulu. “It doesn’t appear they’re gaining much traction,” he says. “But they’re spending a lot of money.”

Movies account for about a third of subscriber viewing on Netflix, and Sarandos says his company’s entry into that business is going well. For example, films that Adam Sandler is making for Netflix opened strong in its markets.

He contrasts that with HBO’s output strategy to offer films that did well at box offices.

“If you were really passionate to watch that movie, you would have,” Sarandos says. “That viewing is likely not going to differentiate you from everybody else.”

But Disney films — which Netflix offers from a deal that kicked in this year — are different, he says. They’re franchises that people like to watch multiple times.

Netflix’s effort to swing for the fences won’t include live sports, at least not yet.

“Liveness is the selling point” for sports, which doesn’t mesh well with Netflix’s VOD strategy, he says. “Don’t look for us to be bidding for league rights.”

Unscripted is a different story. Sarandos calls it “a very interesting business” with content that “appears to be largely interchangeable” around the world. His company will favor programs that are “slightly more elevated and event-driven” similar to Ultimate Beastmaster to be offered in South Korea. “That’s the kind of thing we’re trying to do.”

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