Ted Sarandos: Netflix in Talks With Partners for Ad-Supported Subscription Streaming Service

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarnados June 23 confirmed that the SVOD behemoth is in discussions with several possible partners for its planned less-expensive ad-supported subscription tier. Partners reportedly include Bluegill Media, NBCUniversal, Google and Roku.

Speaking on the “Future of Entertainment” panel at the Cannes Lions advertising confab in France, Sarandos wouldn’t disclose the name of any partner, saying only that the companies “all have different solutions” for Netflix.

Ted Sarandos being interviewed at Cannes Lions ad confab in France

“We’ve left a big customer segment off the table, which is people who say: ‘Hey, Netflix is too expensive for me and I don’t mind advertising,'” Sarandos said. “We are adding an ad tier; we’re not adding ads to Netflix as you know it today. We’re adding an ad tier for folks who say, ‘Hey, I want a lower price and I’ll watch ads.'”

Netflix is pursuing an ad-supported subscription plan in part due to an unexpected loss of 200,000 net subscribers in its most-recent fiscal period. The loss has seen Netflix’s stock price lose half of its value. Sarandos said the downturn on Wall Street reflects the market’s fickle nature.

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“We’ve gotten through experiences where the market disconnects from core business and you have to prove the thesis still works, and is going to work long-term,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world today, and if [investors] get anything that rocks the foundation of the narrative, they get nervous. They viewed us as a spoiler, [now] they’re happy to see the spoiler trip.”

The executive also dismissed scuttlebutt Netflix was in merger talks with Roku.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Sarandos said.

Executive: HBO Max Using Netflix as Benchmark for International Expansion

When in doubt, emulate your competition. That seemed to be the gist of a keynote presentation by Johannes Larcher, head of HBO Max International, at the MipTV confab in Cannes, France.

Speaking April 5 at the global media event, Larcher said Netflix’s reported $12 billion content spending in 2021 is projected to top $21 billion in 2026. The executive, who joined WarnerMedia in 2020, contends that exponential growth in spending would help Netflix skyrocket its international footprint from 147 million subscribers last year to an estimated 266 million subs in the next four years.

“[That] $9 billion [in] additional programming dollars buys a lot of content,” Larcher said. “That buys you almost 700 episodes of ‘The Crown,’ 50 Spider Man: No Way Home movies. That ability to spend more on content on behalf of [subscribers] drives the need to go global.”

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And how does that relate to HBO Max?

Larcher said Max, which ended 2021 with 27 million subs outside the U.S., is now available in 61 territories globally after launching last month in 15 new European countries, including the Netherlands, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The streamer is set to launch operations later this year in Turkey, Greece, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There are also plans for further expansion to Southeast Asia.

Notably absent: the U.K., France and Germany, which are still contracted to existing HBO pay-TV distribution deals.

“That’s why all of us [streamers] desire to go global,” Larcher said, adding that Max is upping its European original content production from 10 programs in 2019, to 40 shows by 2023. “There are slight variations on how we position our brand market by market.”

The executive said he believes that with the April 11 completion of Discovery’s minority stake, majority control acquisition of WarnerMedia, the new Warner Bros. Discovery company will help Max reach its international growth objectives.

“It will diversify our content, our service,” Larcher said of the deal that will combine Max with the Discovery+ SVOD service. “We have a shared vision of what the product should be in terms of packaging and how we go to market.”

Netflix Greenlights Documentary Series on Tour de France Bicycle Race

Netflix March 31 announced it is partnering with organizers of the Tour de France bicycle race for an eight-episode, reality-based documentary series on the 2022 edition of the famous sports spectacle. The series is expected to launch in 2023.

Following months of speculation, Netflix said it would work with France Télévisions and Quadbox, a joint venture between Quad and Box to Box Films (Producer of Netflix’s successful “F1 Drive to Survive” auto racing series), to follow eight teams taking part in the 2,000-mile race taking place from July 1 to 24.

The 45-minute episodes will follow as closely as possible all the actors of the Tour de France, from cyclists to team managers, to understand the multiple stakes of a race that has become a true international symbol, broadcasted in 190 territories.

The backstory of eight professional teams will be unveiled, from the preparation phase to the finish line. The teams include AG2R Citroën Team, Alpecin-Fenix, Bora-Hansgrohe, EF Education-EasyPost, Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team, Ineos Grenadiers, Team Jumbo-Visma and Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

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This is a unique opportunity to dive into the stories of its inspiring characters,” Dolores Emile, manager of EMEA Unscripted & Doc Series (France) at Netflix, said in a statement.

France Télévisions will broadcast a 52-minute documentary on the series a few days before the start of the Tour de France in 2023.

“Through a narrative approach, which is additive to the competition itself, the public will be able to discover how the Tour de France represents the ultimate challenge for the competitors,” said Yann Le Moënner, directeur général d’A.S.O. “This project is part of our overall ambition to make our sport more accessible and meet an even wider audience.”

Paramount+ Inks Content Deal With French Producer Gaumont

Paramount+ has inked a content deal with Gaumont, the French-based TV show and movie producer responsible for recent Netflix hits “Lupin,” “Narcos” and “Barbarian,” in addition to “Stillwater” on Apple TV+.

The agreement is part of Paramount’s goal of creating 50 original scripted international series this year, which thus far include “Sexy Beast,” “A Gentleman in Moscow,” Simon Beckett’s “Chemistry of Death,” “Los Enviados” (The Envoys), “Cecilia,” “Bosé,” “Miss Fallaci” and “At Midnight,” among others.

“This long-term partnership with the storied and esteemed production company Gaumont is another example of our commitment to producing high-quality content that crosses borders and resonates with audiences worldwide,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of Paramount Networks International, formerly VCNI, said in a statement.

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These originals are on top of 40 series Gaumont is currently involved with in Paris, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Cologne and Rome for other streaming platforms. These include “Narcos” season six, season two of “Barbarian,” season two of “Lupin,” “Damage,” “El Presidente” “Totem,” “Kaiser Karl” and “Stillwater.”

“We are excited to start a global relationship with Paramount+ and contribute to its international rollout with four new shows in Europe and Latin America,” added Gaumont CEO Sidonie Dumas.

Paramount+ is currently operating in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Nordics, and Australia, and will expand to 48 markets by the end of the year.

Netflix Ups Fiscal Love of French Movies

Netflix has reportedly inked new three-year agreements with French film organizations pledging to devote at least 4% of its annual revenue in the region to locally produced movies.

Hailed as “landmark” deals, the agreements with the BLIC (Bureau de liaison des industries cinématographiques), the BLOC (Bureau de liaison des organisations du cinema) and the ARP (Société civile des auteurs réalisateurs producteurs) call for Netflix to invest €40 million ($45.3 million) annually, with a minimum of €30 million ($34 million) for original French-language movies, including pre-financing at least 10 movies annually.

In return, Netflix will have access to French movies 15 months (down from 36 months) after their theatrical debut for an exclusive seven-month window. The deal should also allow Netflix to finally premiere its movies at the Cannes film festival.

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The agreement follows last December’s pact between the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Apple’s iTunes Store mandating the platforms invest at least 20% of their French revenue to locally produced content. The agreements are expected to generate upwards of €300 million ($340 million) in French-based movie spending.

Netflix ended 2021 with more than 74 million paid subscribers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including more than 8 million subs in France.

Kino Lorber Slates February VOD Dates for Two Acclaimed International Indies

Kino Lorber’s February VOD slate includes two acclaimed international indies, the Oscar-shortlisted Hive and Bruno Dumont’s France, starring Léa Seydoux.

Both films will be available to rent or own through all major digital retailers and on VOD platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, and Kino Now.

Up first is Hive, coming Feb. 1. The drama is based on the true story of Fahrije, who, like many women in her patriarchal village, has lived with fading hope and burgeoning grief since her husband went missing during the war in Kosovo. To provide for her struggling family, she unites the other widows to launch a business selling local food product. But their will to begin living independently is met with hostility: the men in the village condemn Fahrije’s efforts to empower herself and the women around her, starting a feud that threatens their newfound sovereignty and the financial future of Fahrije’s family.

Hive was a triple award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, picking up the World Cinema Audience Award, a Directing Award, and a Grand Jury Prize.

Then, on Feb. 22, Kino Lorber will issue France, with an early premium VOD rental window beginning Feb. 8 on Kino Now only.

Set in contemporary Paris, France stars Seydoux as France de Meurs, a seemingly unflappable superstar TV journalist juggling her studio show, reporting on a distant war, and the rush of family life. Her high-profile world is turned upside down after she injures a delivery man in a traffic accident, triggering a series of self-reckonings and a strange romance that proves impossible to shake. 

DEG International, BASE Bow U.K., France Home Entertainment Retail Campaigns

Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home is still generating millions at the box office, but the webslinger’s home entertainment journey would appear to be just around the corner, according to a new home entertainment campaign in the United Kingdom.

While there’s been no official retail release date given for the movie, Amazon U.K. has been teasing a June 15, 2026, packaged media release date — with the ludicrous year likely to be changed at a moment’s notice.

FindAnyFilm.com, the website launched by the U.K. Film Council in 2009 to jumpstart local home entertainment retail interest in British movies, now primarily markets Hollywood releases. The latest YouTube promotional campaign cleverly leads with No Way Home footage, while previous releases Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man 2 both rank among the projected top 10 best-selling movies on disc and digital through Jan. 18, according to the Official Film Chart.

Per FindAnyFilm.com:

“Get ready to experience one of the most-talked-about movies of 2021, with Spider-Man: No Way Home battling his greatest foes yet or prepare to journey into whole new worlds — with sci-fi epic Dune. Catch up ahead of awards season and witness Lady Gaga in true to life revenge drama, House of Gucci, or discover the trials and tribulations of tennis icons, the Williams sisters — in King Richard. The kids will go barking mad for an adventure with Clifford the Big Red Dog or get back to business with The Boss Baby 2.”

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Separately, in France, the DEG International and the Syndicat de l’Edition Vidéo Numérique (SEVN), launched “Les VODays,” a new week-long digital campaign across nine of the top digital retailer platforms in France.

Digital retailers include Apple TV, CanalVOD, Filmo, Microsoft Movies & TV, VOD from Orange TV, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV, UniversCine and Netgem.

The promotion includes movies from Universal Pictures Video France, Sony Pictures Entertainment France, SND Films and WarnerMedia France. The digital retailers will be offering a selection of new and catalog titles at promotional retail and rental prices across both electronic sellthrough and video-on-demand (VOD).

“Les VODays” is the first campaign in France to be delivered by the DEGI following the success of the Mega Movie Week U.K., Germany, Nordics and Australia campaigns over the last few years.

The consumer-focused campaign, backed by a nationwide media campaign, includes social media posts across Facebook and Instagram, Catch-up TV on MyTF1, 6 Play, France Television, and display advertising across the ALLOCINE network.

“The DEGI team is thrilled to be working with SEVN in France, and to share the expertise we have developed over the last few years across the wave of digital-growth, driven by the promotional and educational campaigns we have delivered internationally,” James Duvall, head of business insights and intelligence U.K. and international at DEG International, said in a statement. “Our insights around constantly evolving consumer behavior continue to drive our activity and recommendations, and we hope for many more opportunities with distributors and retailers in France, and internationally in the near future.”

 Yves Elalouf, president of SEVN, said the main objectives around the promotional campaigns are generating new customers and bringing back lapsed home entertainment consumers. 

“Creating awareness of the benefits of buying movies digitally is the primary goal,” Elalouf said.

Pluto TV to Launch in France

ViacomCBS-owned ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV is coming to France. ViacomCBS Networks International said the service, which was acquired by its corporate parent for $330 million in 2019, would bow on Feb. 8.

The debut follows Pluto TV bows in the U.K., Germany, and throughout Latin America as part of ViacomCBS’s digital strategy encompassing AVOD and SVOD — the latter through pending Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access). ViacomCBS plans to rollout Pluto TV in Italy later this year.

“The launch of Pluto TV in France marks an important step for the growth of our company’s streaming presence in Europe,” Olivier Jollet, SVP of emerging business at ViacomCBS Networks Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, said in a statement.

The company said it projected 40 million average global monthly users of its ad-supported platform in 2020.

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With no registration required, Pluto TV will launch with 40 curated and original channels for French audiences. ViacomCBS brands such as Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central will feature content, in addition to third-party fare from international and French publishers, broadcasters and distributors.

Pluto TV is available on all major streaming devices via the app on Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and the Apple Store and Google Play.

Ted Sarandos: ‘Cuties’ Is a ‘Very Misunderstood’ Film

Netflix is facing a criminal indictment in the state of Texas regarding allegations of “lewd visual material” involving underage girls in the French indie film Cuties. Speaking Oct. 12 at the French virtual MIPCOM confab, co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the movie about an 11-year-old Senegalese girl coming of age in 21st century Paris against the backdrop of a religious mother and peer pressure from a group of young female dancers.

“It’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling,” Sarandos told the confab. “It’s a film that is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely within the United States.”

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Sarandos, who shares CEO duties with Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, said the streamer has no plans to alter the movie to appease critics. He said the film, which Netflix acquired at the Sundance Film Festival, amounts to an autobiography of sorts for director Maïmouna Doucouré.

“The film speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s a very personal coming of age film, it’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theatres throughout Europe without any of this controversy.”

ViacomCBS Expands Content Distribution in France

ViacomCBS continues to expand distribution of its core brands around the world — this time with a new linear and on-demand access to BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and MTV on French telecom/broadband provider Orange.

Nick Junior, Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon +1 and Nickelodeon Teen join Orange on July 9th, with MTV, MTV Hits and J-One coming aboard on Aug. 20.

“This distribution renewal marks an important step for both our partnership with Orange and brand presence in France, as we now distribute the full ViacomCBS channel portfolio throughout the French market,” Raffaele Annecchino, president of ViacomCBS Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, said in a statement. “We look forward to building on this important relationship and offer all French audiences the best of our content.”

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With a track record of driving growth from both on-screen and off-screen activities in the markets for which he currently has responsibility, Annecchino was brought on board ViacomCBS’s international expansion focusing on developing scale in the company’s operations in EMEAA, in addition to continuing to be responsible for VCNI’s mobile strategy.

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In March, Annecchino helped ViacomCBS and Comcast-owned Sky ink a distribution deal for select content offered in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Under terms of the deal, Sky’s satellite customers in the countries now have access to Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Nick Toons.