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Netflix ups originals spend to 85% of content budget

Netflix’s originals budget continues to grow with roughly 85% of its new content spend now going towards its own programming, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Ted Sarandos

Speaking at the MoffettNathanson Media and Communications Summit in New York, Sarandos said that Netflix is shooting original programming in 17 different countries and confirmed that it aims to spend roughly US$1 billion on originals in Europe this year.

Netflix has previously said it plans to invest US$8 billion in content overall in 2018 and expects this to result in 700 originals on the service by year-end.

In a wide-ranging conference discussion, Sarandos commented that “90%-plus of our customers regularly watch our original programming” and discussed the value in striking output deals with major producers like Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black).

“They make a lot of great television and the things that they make are incredibly popular,” said Sarandos, claiming that going direct, rather than buying a project at a time from studios like Fox, stands to benefit Netflix and creator alike.

Netflix will, for example, give Murphy the chance to “get a little out of his wheelhouse” if he wants to experiment with a different type of programme, said Sarandos. “We’re going to have an appetite for the vast majority of the things that he wants to make, which we’re very excited about.”

Discussing the balance of watch-time between different types of content on Netflix, Sarandos said that up to 40% of viewing on domestic US television is for unscripted programming, compared to just 7% on Netflix – giving the SVOD giant space to grow in this area.

He also revealed that films make up about a third of viewing on Netflix across its entire footprint, with viewers often breaking up watching 13 or 26 hours-worth of series by watching a movie.

Netflix is producing, acquiring and plans to release 80 films this year ranging from “sub-million dollar titles” to “US$100 million-plus blockbusters”, said Sarandos.

While he claimed it is tough to compare the two-hour watch time of a movie with the 13-hours of viewing of series, he said the company is “finding efficiency” in its movie originals. “We’re getting enough viewing and enough watching of a big budget movie that it is competitive with the TV money.”

Last month Netflix priced a bond offering of US$1.9 billion, which it said it will use for “general corporate purposes” – including content acquisitions, production and development.