April 17, 2019
Much attention has been given to major media companies such as Disney, NBC Universal and WarnerMedia pulling back content licensing to Netflix for their own branded over-the-top video platforms — and what impact that would have on the SVOD juggernaut.
Not much, according to CCO Ted Sarandos, who says the streaming service has anticipated such changing market dynamics for the past seven years.
Speaking on the April 16 fiscal webcast, Sarandos said CEO Reed Hastings and others long ago concluded Netflix’s future required streaming original scripted series, unscripted series, feature films, documentaries, standup comedy and children’s programming.
“And that’s what we set out to do,” he said.
Longtime Netflix bear Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends about 80% Netflix’s content license deals with WarnerMedia (“Friends”) and NBC Universal (“The Office”) expire in 2020.
Disney’s exclusive feature film agreement ends this year. Netflix’s recently cancelled Marvel Defenders Universe series, which included “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Punisher,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.”
“Netflix can thrive in the face of new [OTT video] competition only if it has the content to compete,” Pachter wrote in an April 17 note, aptly named, “Netflix: 57 channels (and Nothin’ On).”
Hastings characterizes any comeback strategy aimed at filling in exiting studio content with similar programming as “very minimalist.”
“You look at [global nature series] “Our Planet,” that’s not filling in for anything else, that’s setting a bold new vision of what programming can be,” he said.
Sarandos said Netflix original interactive series “You vs. Wild” has been streamed by about 25 million households in its first 28 days of release. Pending releases include Klaus, Netflix’s first animated feature film from veteran animator Sergio Pablos, and “Green Eggs and Ham,” an Ellen DeGeneres-produced 13-episode animated series.
“It’s pushing storytelling forward, which I think we’re trying,” he said.
The longtime content executive contends most TV programming is largely interchangeable. Netflix’s focus, according to Sarandos, is original programming (such as India’s “Sacred Games,” and “Love Per Square Foot,”) targeting local audiences that can appeal globally as well.
“If you look at our Top 10 most-watched shows on Netflix, they’re all Netflix original brands,” he said, adding that only four TV series among the service’s Top 25 have at least one season available elsewhere.
“It’s hard to imagine a couple of years ago when Fox said, ‘sunset all of their second-window content on Netflix off of the service to focus on their own efforts,’ and we’ve seen how we’ve been doing since 2017, so we’re pretty happy about it,” Sarandos said.
So is Wall Street, which lifted Netflix shares nearly 3% in April 17 pre-market trading.