Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Reveals His ‘Phase 2’ for Hollywood
By Lacey Rose for The Hollywood Reporter
Algorithms, deep pockets and a disdain for the existing TV model as the chief content officer reveals why the agent who talked about their budgets was “remarkably ill-informed,” and countering “the managed dissatisfaction … of the entire entertainment business.”
Ted Sarandos doesn’t need to be liked by Hollywood. Netflix’s chief content officer is aware that his disinterest in playing by the industry’s rules — instead throwing his shows online all at once, bypassing the traditional development process and refusing to release ratings information — has irked some, but he has no plans to apologize, much less curb his agenda.
“I have a deep respect for the fundamentals of television, the traditions of it even, but I don’t have any reverence for it,” says Sarandos during a late April interview in his no-frills Beverly Hills office. Sarandos, 48, has earned his swagger because, like him or not, he’s become one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood. In two years, the company at which he has worked for more than a decade went from being a repository for old TV shows and movies to one of the most attractive buyers of original programming in town.
House of Cards, which Sarandos snapped up in a jaw-dropping $100 million, two-season deal, bowed Feb. 1 to near-unanimous praise, with many heralding the streaming service as a legitimate rival to premium cable outlets HBO and Showtime. (The coming Emmy season will test that theory.) In the quarter that House of Cards premiered, Netflix’s subscriber base jumped more than 2 million to 29.2 million domestic streamers (36 million members worldwide), bigger than HBO’s reported 28.7 million subs. The growth trajectory, especially in the aftermath of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ abandoned plan to split Netflix into a streaming entity and a DVD service called Qwikster, has led its stock price to jump 345 percent in nine months to $239.55 on May 20 on revenue of $1.02 billion for the first three months of the year.
In the process, Netflix has become Hollywood’s biggest fascination, in part because of its splashy initial shows but mostly because of what it represents: the first deep-pocketed platform for original content to emerge since the cable TV renaissance of the late 1990s. And at least so far, its strategy seems to be working.