“I have no idea what they’re doing until we see it,” Netflix’s chief content officer told Deadline today of Apple’s expected new streaming service unveiling March 25, and Disney+ fueled by Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar coming later this year. “So, I have to really reserve comment and judgment,” the exec added diplomatically about the heavyweight competition coming to the already crowded digital content space, which Netflix had fully dominated just a couple of years ago.
However, even a diplomat would be hard-pressed to mind his Ps and Qs in a rapidly changing media landscape in which Hulu and Amazon have already taken a sizable stake, and which will see newbies Disney and Apple joined in the next year or so by services from the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.
Which is exactly where Sarandos went Monday, bluntly.
“We’ve been competing with 500 channels of cable and penetrated nearly every household in the world for a long time,” he declared with no small air of dismissal that Netflix could be heading the way of Napster as the new kids on the block begin launching. “So, it’s the same stable of competitors just very late to the game.”
Primarily a DVD delivery service in its early years, the Los Gatos-based Netflix made its first steps into streaming in 2007 when the AOL dial-up sound was still a recent memory for getting online. Now the largest network in the world in terms of content, Netflix started its first significant original programming with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey and House of Cards in 2013.
Besides deeper roots, part of what Netflix sees as the strength in Netflix’s arsenal is the company’s international growth, with programming indigenous to major non-English-speaking markets and demographics as well as Fortress North America.
“We need to be good in parallel in getting Hollywood content to the world and more importantly from the world to everywhere else in the world,” Sarandos said of the 190-country reach of the streamer, which is basically everyone but China. “Sometimes you get something like Casa De Papel (Money Heist), that’s a global sensation at the same level of a Stranger Things in terms of how it plays around the world,” he adds of the Alex Pina crime series that Netflix acquired in 2017 and is expected to launch a third season in late 2019.
International was actually the theme of the Netfest of sorts that Sarandos and other Netflix execs were assembled for today in Hollywood. Netflix subscribers currently watch the service on “600 million unique devices around the world,” according to remarks chief product officer Greg Peters made earlier in the day.
Those comments were followed by a session that saw VP Original Series Cindy Holland joined on the sofa-filled stage at Netflix’s Sunset Boulevard HQ by Bela Bajaria, the newly minted VP International Originals; VP Original Film Scott Stuber; and Taito Okiura, Director, International Originals – Anime.
“We are trying to reflect our audiences around the world,” said Holland of the regionally based and produced programming like the recently picked up Delhi Crime. “We have a long way to go,” she added.
“You can’t rest on your laurels too long,” Holland also said, in words that may be telling of the real parameters of the cutthroat streaming wars that are looming.