If there’s one lesson to take away from Netflix’s standoff with Cannes Film Festival it’s this: the streaming service remains committed to day-and-date releases, in which movies appear in theaters and in homes at the same time.
Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos revisited the decision to pull all of its movies from the prestigious film festival in remarks today at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York.
A rule change would have required the films Netflix screened at the festival also to released to theaters in France — which, in turn, would have kept these same films off Netflix’s streaming platform for another three years, under that country’s strict laws.
“If we were going to show our films to the 600 people at the Cannes Festival Festival we had to agree not to show it to the millions of other people in France who use Netflix,” Sarandos said. “So obviously, we said we passed.”
Netflix said some in the French press misinterpreted Netflix’s decision as abandoning its fight to innovate around release windows.
“We are 100% committed to collapsing windows outside of France because that’s what consumers want,” Sarandos. “We are not pro-theater, we’re not anti-theater, we’re pro-consumer and consumers really don’t understand windows.”
It was a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Netflix’s embrace of unscripted programming, its overall investment in original content and the looming competitive threat from Disney’s over-the-top service.
“They’re incredibly prolific, they make a lot of great television and the things that they make are incredibly popular,” Sarandos said.
Sarandos said these mega-producers are attracted by Netflix’s global platform, where there is an appetite for whatever they choose to create next. They don’t have worry about a tailoring a TV show to fit a particular network’s demographics. Nor do they need to concern themselves with ratings.
“There’s great comfort from not having this arbitrary, apples-to-oranges measurement against other things on television,” Sarandos said.
Netflix is able to share insights — some of which might be counter-intuitive, like the Venn diagram of viewers who watch American Horror Story and Bob’s Burgers. This audience, Sarandos said, is attracted by the humor that Murphy threads through his stories (and the popular Fox animated series).
Sarandos said Netflix has its eye on producers of similar caliber.
“It’s a small group of folks who care about making high-quality content that is culturally relevant and also popular for large audiences,” Sarandos said.
Hollywood, you’ve been warned.