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Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Says Launch of Disney Plus Changes ‘Nothing’ for the Company

Fern Siegel

Disney+ may see itself as a worthy competition to Netflix, but Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, says it’s just business as usual.

“For us, nothing really changes. We’ve always been customer-first, and we don’t really get distracted by competition,” he told an audience at the Paley Center’s summit in New York.

Sarandos called Disney “great storytellers and a hugely successful company,” but questioned the wisdom of new streamers’ business models. “These companies that have been built on making and selling content to other people. Can they actually make more money or do better in business selling it directly to the consumer? … It’s a hard bet, and it’s a bet-the-farm one,” he said.

To date, Netflix has the largest subscriber base across all streaming platforms, with 158.3 million paid subscribers around the world (60.6 million in the U.S.), while Disney+ reported 10 million sign-ups during its launch day.

Of Disney’s powerhouse brands — Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar — Sarandos added: “I don’t know if it’s a luxury or a trap, but they have IP. They have established IP, and they kind of keep to within those worlds … You have to keep reinventing, which is great.”

Conversely, “all of the IP we have on Netflix that’s original is created IP, sometimes out of whole cloth or sometimes from a book or something, but not universes that we feel bound by,” he noted. Netflix prefers to reinvent across “programming ideas and programming verticals, without the constraints of a handful of universes.”

Netflix also announced today it is expanding its international fare, commissioning two local film projects in Scandinavia: Swedish feature “Red Dot” and Norwegian film “Cadaver.” Also, the streamer has purchased the Danish feature “Shadows In My Eyes,” about a tragic accidental bombing of a French school in Copenhagen In 1945, which will launch globally on Netflix.