Ted Sarandos Said He ‘Screwed Up’ on Transgender Debate

Netflix c0-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos says he “screwed up” handling the controversy regarding stand-up comic Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special “The Closer” — now streaming on the SVOD platform.

Chappelle, who has a long-term contract with Netflix, drew criticism from LGBTQ groups over comments he made regarding transgender people, remarks some observers — including Netflix’s transgender employees — viewed as hurtful and discriminatory.

The streamer’s trans employee resource group has a planned Oct. 20 virtual walkout in protest.

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In an Oct. 19 media interview, Sarandos said he should have realized that initial comments supporting freedom of speech and “artistic expression” could hurt some people.

“I 100% believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,” he said. “I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those [company memos] that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made.”

Sarandos said the internal memos, one of which was leaked to the media resulting in the firing of the Netflix employee who leaked it, were clumsily handled. That said, the CCO said there were no plans to pull Chappelle’s special (which ranks No. 3 on the platform), arguing there would always be content on Netflix that would offend some audiences.

“We’re deeply committed to the culture of transparency [within Netflix],” Sarandos said. “It also depends upon a great deal of trust with our employees that we continue to secure, but we don’t plan on changing any of our internal operations around that.”

Ted Sarandos: Netflix Management Wasn’t Sold on ‘Squid Game’ in the Beginning

With South Korean original horror series “Squid Game” setting viewership records for Netflix, it would be easy for co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos to take credit for a show 142 million Netflix households streamed in the first 28 days following its Sept. 17 debut.

Speaking on the Oct. 19 webcast, Sarandos gave credit to the streamer’s South Korean team that recognized the show’s potential when acquiring the rights two years ago. It was not a sentiment equally shared stateside.

“I can’t say that we had the same eyeball on it that it was going to be the biggest title in our history around the world,” Sarandos said.

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The executive said that the show tracked like a local language show that mushroomed globally. At the same time, he said predicting the success of a program is unrealistic.

“In 10 years trying to sell [‘Squid Game’], our team recognized something nobody else did. And created an environment for that creator to make a great show,” Sarandos said. “How something can go viral is really hard to predict, but it’s super powerful when it happens.”

The co-CEO said “Squid Game” has been able to “deliver the goods” to be able and attract monster viewership, and have people talk about it in shorthand.

“Sometimes you think you have lightening in a bottle and you’re wrong,” Sarandos said. “And then you have a really great Korean show that happens to be lightening in a bottle for the rest of the world.”

The CFO was quick to point out that Netflix has had similar successes, just not on the same scale as “Squid Game.” Shows such Spain’s Money Heist, France’s “Lupin,” Germany’s Blood Red Sky and the U.K.’s “Sex Education,” among others.

Sarandos said Netflix’s content team continually focus on the reality that stories of the world increasingly come from all over the world — not just Hollywood. He said non-English language content viewing has grown three times since Netflix began making original programming in 2008.

“The thing [our content teams are] mostly focused on are a bunch of shows you’ve never heard of, but are hugely impactful in [different] territories, like Denmark, Italy and India,” Sarandos said. “These are all shows that are meant to be hugely impactful and loved in territory, and if they really catch on, they travel a lot.”

Netflix to Upend Viewership Data, Focusing on Time Spent Streaming

With a record 142 million households streaming original series “Squid Game,” and more than 214 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix is leveraging its market position with plans to disclose more viewership data outside quarterly fiscal reports.

The once-shy data company is now using its take on viewership to drive brand awareness and content popularity. While some observers may scoff at Netflix recording a viewer after 120 seconds of streaming, Netflix contends the time frame underscores its move toward tracking hours — not subs viewing — its original programs.

Later in the year, Netflix will shift to reporting on hours viewed for original titles rather than the number of subscriber accounts that choose to watch them.

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“We think engagement as measured by hours viewed is a slightly better indicator of the overall success of our titles and member satisfaction,” co-CEOs Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos and CFO Spencer Neumann wrote in the Oct. 19 shareholder letter. “It also matches how outside services measure TV viewing and gives proper credit to re-watching. In addition, we will start to release title metrics more regularly outside of our earnings report so our members and the industry can better measure success in the streaming world.”

In the meantime, Netflix said action movie Sweet Girl, starring Jason Momoa (68 million households watched in the first four weeks), Kissing Booth 3 (59 million), the last installment in the rom com trilogy, the animated family film Vivo (46 million) and Blood Red Sky, a German-language action horror movie (53 million) resonated among Netflix subs in the quarter. Season five of “La Casa de Papel” (aka Money Heist) and season three of “Sex Education” generated audiences of 69 million and 55 million households in their first four weeks.

Netflix expects new limited series, “The Maid,” which launched just after quarter-end on Oct. 1, to score with subscribers. The streamer expects the story about a woman living on the poverty line, by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Molly Smith Metzler, to reach 67 million households during its first four weeks.

“While the goal of our local content executives is always to create locally authentic stories that will resonate in their country (like ‘The Chestnut Man,’ which we expect will be streamed by about two thirds of its Danish subs, Netflix’s main goal to be a global, direct-to-consumer service, which enables creators to reach broader audiences – and gives our members an even greater choice of stories to enjoy,” Hastings, Sarandos and Neumann wrote.

Netflix: 142 Million Households Watched ‘Squid Game’ in First 28 Days; Streamer Tops Q3 Guidance, Adds 4.4 Million Subs

Netflix Oct. 19 revealed that 142 million subscriber households streamed original South Korean horror drama “Squid Game” in the first 28 days of release. The tally shatters the previous viewing record of 82 million households set by Shonda Rhymes’ period series, “Bridgerton.”

The success underscores Netflix’s successful strategy creating shows that appeal to multiple demographics in different territories worldwide.

‘”Squid Game” has become our biggest TV show ever,” co-CEOs Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos and CFO Spencer Neumann wrote in the shareholder letter.

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Indeed, the series ranked Netflix’s No. 1 program in 94 countries (including the U.S.). “Squid Game” has also pierced the cultural
zeitgeist, spawning a “Saturday Night Live” skit and memes/clips on TikTok with more than 42 billion views. Demand for related consumer products is high, with merchandise items headed to retail, according to Netflix.

Separately, Netflix said it added 4.4 million subscribers worldwide in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30. The streaming pioneer added 2.2 million subs in the previous-year period. Netflix ended the fiscal period with 214 million subs — tops among all SVOD platforms globally.

Netflix said it expects to add 8.5 million global subs in the current fourth quarter.

The streamer said under-forecasted (by 900,000) paid net adds for the quarter, while the paid memberships were within 0.4% of company forecast. For the second consecutive quarter, the Asia Pacific region added the most new subs with 2.2 million net adds (half of total paid net adds). In Europe, Middle East and Africa, Netflix added 1.8 million, up from 188,000 in Q2.

North America, which includes the U.S. and Canada, and Latin America, added a combined 400,000 — a relatively small amount given the high penetration of broadband in the regions.

“We believe we still have ample runway for growth as we continue to improve our service [in the regions],” Hastings, Sarandos and Neumann wrote. “We’re very excited to finish the year with what we expect to be our strongest Q4 content offering yet, which shows up as bigger content expense and lower operating margins sequentially.”

Tubi to Stream Original Adult Animation Series ‘The Freak Brothers’; Lionsgate to Distribute Globally

Tubi Oct. 19 announced its first-ever star-studded original animated series, “The Freak Brothers,” based on the cult underground comic series, and will debut the first two episodes on Nov. 14. The series is produced by WTG Enterprises and distributed globally by Lionsgate.

The eight-episode series chronicles the escapades of a trio of stoner anti-establishment characters and their cat who wake up from a 50-year nap after smoking a magical strain of weed in 1969, and must adjust to life with a new family in present-day San Francisco.

The voice cast includes Woody Harrelson (“The Hunger Games” franchise, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner John Goodman (“The Big Lebowski,” “Monsters, Inc.”), Emmy Award and Grammy Award winner Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip,” “The Lego Movie 2”) and Pete Davidson (“Saturday Night Live,” “The King of Staten Island”), among others.

The series is based on comic book legend Gilbert Shelton’s “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.” Critiquing the establishment, while satirizing counterculture at the same time, the comic sold more than 45 million copies in 16 languages and was hailed by The Comics Journal as “One of the 100 Greatest Comics of the Century.” Starburns Industries and Pure Imagination Studios, the studios behind “Rick & Morty” and “The Simpsons: Brick Like Me,” handled the animation.

The series spearheads Tubi’s first foray into adult animation, as the Fox Entertainment AVOD platform expands its adult humor collection. The additional episodes from the first season will drop weekly on Sundays through Dec. 26.

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On Nov. 14, TV viewers will get a series sneak peek during a special 90-second trailer airing during Fox’s “Animation Domination” block in “Family Guy” (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT).

“As we continue our expansion into original animation, a cornerstone of the FOX brand, we’re thrilled Tubi is joining the party with its first original animated series,” said Michael Thorn, President of Entertainment, Fox Entertainment, said “Freaky Brothers” represents continue expansion into original animation, a cornerstone of the Fox brand.

“With its counterculture roots, anti-establishment comedic POV and, as Adam said, an all-star team of cast and producers, [the series] is the perfect complement to Animation Domination and provides the ideal opportunity to not only grow Tubi’s audience, but take the animation genre to the next level in AVOD. Stay tuned for more original Tubi animated content soon,” Thorn said in a statement.

Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, said the deal with Fox represents a new “paradigm ” for distributing original animation.

“The timeless humor of ‘The Freak Brothers’ has resonated with audiences for years, and this edgy comedy gives it a fresh and inventive spin for a whole new generation of fans,” Packer said.

WarnerMedia to Bow ‘Dune’ Day Early on HBO Max

WarnerMedia will release Warner Bros. Pictures’ sci-fi reboot Dune on the HBO Max SVOD service on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET — a day ahead of its North American theatrical debut.

The movie adaptation from director Denis Villeneuve has already generated $100 million in foreign box office revenue outside China and the United States.

The 1984 original Dune generated nearly $31 million in global box office proceeds, which is equivalent to about $80 million today.

WarnerMedia, which is releasing Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently on the Max subscription streaming service, moved up Dune to coincide with the movie’s Thursday night screenings.

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The move comes as WarnerMedia attempts to offset its decision to drop Max from the Amazon Channels platform, which affords Prime members direct access to third-party SVOD services. The decision reportedly could cost Max five million subscribers.

Comcast Bows ‘XClass TV’ Operating System

Comcast Oct. 19 announced the launch of XClass TV, the cable giant’s proprietary operating system affording third-party television manufacturers direct access to NBCUniversal and third-party content.

For the first time, Comcast is making its entertainment and voice platform available direct to consumers across the U.S., without an Xfinity subscription, both inside and outside of Comcast’s service areas.

Comcast is partnering with China’s Hisense to offer consumers an innovative smart TV with an integrated interface and voice remote to access live and on-demand streaming content from myriad apps and services. The first run of Hisense XClass TVs are available this week in select Walmart stores and in the coming weeks through Walmart.com.

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The operating system is the same technology Comcast employs for its proprietary Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, Sky Glass and Sky Q platforms catering to 75 million Comcast entertainment and connectivity devices. The OS integrates streaming, on-demand, broadcast, and cable options in one place under unified voice search, discovery, apps and interactive features. It offers customers intuitive navigation across thousands of apps, movies, shows and sports with a simple voice command or remote click.

“Hisense XClass TVs are the next products in a growing portfolio built on our flexible and scalable technology platform, bringing the best innovative products – whether that’s a streaming box or a smart TV – to each territory and customer segment,” Sam Schwartz, Chief Business Development Officer, Comcast, said in a statement.

Hisense XClass TVs are available in 43” and 50” 4K Ultra HD models. The televisions include a voice remote powered by Comcast’s Emmy-award winning voice technology. Alongside the simple and intuitive user experience, Hisense XClass TVs support leading technologies including Dolby Vision HDR, which delivers a more vivid, lifelike image. Hisense XClass TVs also support HDR10 and can enable the pass-through of Dolby Atmos from compatible content sources when the TV is connected to a compatible audio device.

Disney+ Inks Distribution via China’s VIDAA Operating System

Disney’s branded subscription streaming video platform, Disney+, is getting distribution on select Hisense and Toshiba smart televisions using VIDAA, the Chinese-owned operating system software utilizing the open-sourced Linux platform.

Based in Atlanta, VIDAA was launched by the Hisense Group, a Chinese multinational electronics manufacturer with TV sales revenue of about 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in 2019.


In 2020, VIDAA introduced a revamped user interface named 4.0, which puts users and their way of consuming content at the core of the design. As of May 2021, the VIDAA U5 OS saw further improvements by implementing Google Assistant, its own voice activation software, the new VIDAA remote control smartphone application, as well as advertising and billing services in select markets.

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“Our cooperation with The Walt Disney Company is a major milestone for our organization,” Guy Edri, EVP of VIDAA USA, said in a statement. “Bringing Disney+ to the VIDAA platform globally is just the first step. We’re looking forward to working with Disney on ways to expand our collaboration and opportunities to bring their full suite of streaming services to our customers in the future. Today marks not only the launch of an amazing service on a state-of-the-art platform, but a start of a long-term relationship between two companies, each a leader in its industry.”

Netflix Drops Mini Episode on Pending ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series

Netflix Oct. 19 released a mini episode of “Cowboy Bebop,” the live-action adaptation of the eponymous anime series that ran in the 1990s. The full 10-episode series streams on Nov. 19.

The original Japanese sci-fi neo-noire anime series featured 26 episodes set in 2071 showcasing a trio of bounty hunters traveling in their Bebop spacecraft.

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The Netflix mini episode, “Cowboy Bebop: Lost Session,” stars John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, and Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, in their pursuit the main protagonist Vicious (Alex Hassell).

Netflix hired the show’s original anime illustrator, Shinichiro Watanabe, and composer, Yoko Kanno, to set the musical tone.


NPD: PlayStation 5 Snaps Nintendo Switch’s 33-Month Run as Top-Selling Game Console

Sony’s PlayStation 5 video game console was the top-selling unit in September, ending a 33-month run by Nintendo Switch as the industry’s top-selling console, according to new data from The NPD Group. November 2018 was the last month a game platform (PlayStation 4) other than Switch led in unit sales.

In a blog post, NPD analyst Mat Piscatella wrote that September hardware dollar sales increased 49% to $412 million when compared to the previous-year period at $276 million. Year-to-date hardware spending is up 49% to $3.5 billion compared to $2.35 billion last year.

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September game sales, which includes hardware, software and accessories, inched up 3% to a record $4.36 billion from $4.24 billion last year — a notable achievement considering ongoing chip shortages due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, software sales, which include packaged media, digital, and subscription, was flat at $3.78 billion. Accessories fell 12% to $171 million from $193 million during the previous-year period.