Ted Sarandos, Netflix: Company's TV guru: "Don't make me wait!"

LOS GATOS, California (CNNMoney) -- Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, doesn't come across as an impatient fellow. But ask him which conventions of television and film he'd most like to change and he shoots back: "The waiting."

He's wasting no time trying to change that. Netflix released the second season of its biggest show, "Orange is the New Black," all at once Friday, as it did previously with "House of Cards."

In Sarandos' view, there are too many delays baked into television with the aim of stringing the audience along for several weeks "so that we can sell ads and promote our shows."

"Every kind of flavor of that should go out the window, as we have conditioned the universe to expect instant gratification by the Internet," he said.

Sarandos is using Netflix's $3 billion content budget to nudge -- or shove -- Hollywood in that direction.

In an interview at Netflix's headquarters, Sarandos said he doubted that "Orange," about inmates at a women's prison in upstate New York, would have made it onto traditional television in the form it's in today.

He was "cautiously optimistic" when the inaugural seasons of "House" and "Orange" were released last year, but understands why many others were skeptical.

"It was a likely bet that an Internet DVD-by-mail company who's been streaming for a few years was not going to launch TV shows that mattered right off the bat," he said.

"I would have said it would have taken several years to get to the level of original programming that we've achieved in our first year, both in terms of size of the audience; to the critical reception of the shows; to the importance that they've played in the culture."

Just last week, one of the stars of "Orange," Laverne Cox, appeared on the cover of Time, illustrating what the magazine called "The Transgender Tipping Point." Sarandos said he was proud of that, and cited it as a sign that "the show is in the national dialogue."

Ratings would be another sign, but Netflix won't share specific viewership data for its shows, arguing it has no reason to do so because it doesn't sell advertising.

Nielsen ratings are for ad sales, Sarandos said, "so there's no real reason for us to engage Nielsen and report our ratings to other folks."

He did drop a couple of hints about the company's two biggest original hits.

"They're both very successful shows, but 'Orange is the New Black' is the larger one," Sarandos said.

Asked whether "Orange" is, for instance, twice as popular as "House," he said: "No, no, definitely not."

"House of Cards" tends to attract an older and more male audience, "Orange" more women and younger viewers, he said.

Netflix enjoyed what Sarandos called its "biggest view day" on the eve of the second season of "House of Cards" as many subscribers binged on the first season.

"We're seeing it this week with the run-up of 'Orange' as well," he said.

And while some fans will "devour the show in the first 13 hours", the vast majority "watch at their own pace, whenever they want, at whatever pace they want."

That means there's no sharp fall in overall viewership once a new season debuts.

The curiosity around Netflix's original series is natural, but it's worth keeping in mind that they make up only a tiny portion of total Netflix viewing.

"About 70 percent of the total watching on Netflix is television shows in their previous season models," Sarandos said. "Our original programming is growing. And movies, they still hold onto about 30 percent of the business."

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 


Comments