Netflix has long championed concurrent theatrical/streaming releases of new movies — to the anger of exhibitors and some industry traditionalists. With the pandemic sidelining movie theaters for the past 12 months, studios such as Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures have aggressively sought to curtail the theatrical window, releasing titles concurrently into consumer homes and retail channels — or just weeks after their box office debut.
To Greg Peters, COO/CPO at Netflix, the move is welcomed, confirming the notion that consumers should have a choice in how they watch a movie. Speaking March 2 on the virtual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, Peters said many employees at Netflix remain “huge” fans of the theatrical experience.
“It’s great to be in a room with a bunch of people, watch incredible content in a high-quality way,” he said. “But it’s a different experience to be able to watch it at home. The way we think about it, it should be a consumer’s choice.”
Peters said Netflix management is upbeat about shortening windows, and optimistic the trend will continue post-pandemic.
“We’re enthusiastic to see the shift, and maybe enabling more and more of that for other entertainment [i.e. streaming] options out there,” he said. “It’s what consumers want. It’s hard to buck that trend for too long, and I think that’s eventually where things go.”
Co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos may be the public faces of Netflix, but it takes a village to operate and grow the platform with more than 200 million subscribers worldwide.
Peters said mining user data across myriad interaction points is increasingly key — in addition to localized content — to driving subscriber growth in foreign countries and markets.
“What’s working and what’s not working … helping us evaluate the features or user interfaces,” Peters said of the data. “Launching service [in a country] is the easiest part of it.” He said the service conducts hundreds of data tests, producing “nice” incremental growth wins.
“We’re starting to get be specific to different user needs,” Peters said.
The executive, who helped launch Netflix Japan and is fluent in five languages, is proud how Netflix has been able to produce localized content in a foreign language and make it popular globally. He cited the success of the French miniseries “Lupin,” starring Omar Sy (The Intouchables) as the famed gentleman thief, which has been streamed by 70 million households. Much of the series’ interest generated by was generated by the streamer’s daily Top 10 ranking.
“Some people in the world, they think about popularity [of a show or movie] as an important signal; they want to be part of that conversation,” Peters said.
He said the streamer’s “Watch Something” option has proved equally successful for viewers uninterested in picking specific content.
“What we’re seeing more and more internationally … when you’re sitting down in front of the TV with three generations in your household, that’s [a challenge],” Peters said.