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Netflix: TV series account for two thirds of viewing

Ted Sarandos

Ted Sarandos

TV series, including Netflix’s own original productions, now account for two thirds of viewing time on the SVOD service, according to Ted Sarandos.

Speaking at the RTS London Conference yesterday, Netflix’s chief content officer, said it is more efficient to spend money on originals than on licensing high profile content, and defended making both TV shows and films – despite more watch-time going on series.

“With all the success of the ‘golden age of television’, and all the success that we’ve had in this period of time, about a third of the watching on Netflix is still movies. Keep in mind this is two hour movies versus 13 hour shows,” said Sarandos.

He claimed that the way movies are licensed to pay TV services today is “probably the most out-of-step licensing window” and that making people wait to watch movies online means that they don’t “assign a lot of subscription value to that”.

“To have people wait seven to 10 months in the internet age doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think what you end up with in these pay deals is movies that either people saw already, because they were excited about them, or they made a conscious decision not to see them.”

“We’re investing in films so that we can more aggressively give the consumer what they’re telling us they want, which is the movies when they open.”

Discussing Netflix’s original series plans, Sarandos echoed recent claims by Netflix’s chief finance officer, David Wells, that the company aims to move to a 50-50 split between licensed and original content.

“That’s where it’s heading and that’s what we set out to do many years ago,” said Sarandos. “If we get to a place where we’re missing more than we’re hitting or that efficiency metric goes the other way, we may revisit that number, but that’s our intent – to do most of our programming.”

In terms of the type of content that Netflix is focused on, Sarandos said that its originals should be “brand-defining, tent pole shows”. He stressed that each programme should stand out under the wider Netflix umbrella and that the company is not trying to “do everything that feels or looks the same”.

He also said that Netflix likes to work with film makers as they enter the television world, because big films have historically “been more global than television” – a direction that he sees TV content moving in. This follows Netflix’s recent launch of the Baz Luhrman-created musical drama The Get Down.

Sarandos claimed that doing original series makes sense not only in terms of spending efficiency but also in distinguishing Netflix as a destination, rather than an outlet for programming that other services also carry.