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Netflix CEO Not Interested In Buying Movie Theater Chain or Live Sports

Michael King

Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO, said Monday that the streamer was not interested in acquiring a movie chain, despite already owning two theaters — one in New York City and one in Los Angeles. Sarandos spoke at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Los Angeles during a wide-ranging interview with New York Times columnist Kara Swisher.

He said that he did expect movie theaters to survive the rise of at-home streaming but that audiences would make far fewer trips to their local theaters when they have the opportunity to watch so much at home.

“I think (going out to the movies) will be less frequent, maybe more expensive,” Sarandos said. “Using it as an event to get out of the house, people are still going to be looking for that.”

Reiterating a point he has made before, Sarandos said that Netflix was not interested in pursuing live sports for its platform, saying that the “next $10 billion” would be better spent on content.

Historically, Netflix has stayed away from sports with the sole exception of documentary programming like The Last Dance or Home Game.

However, as recently as last week, while Sarandos’ co-CEO, Reed Hastings also said Netflix was not actively pursuing the rights to live sports, he did not close the door to a sporting event for Netflix if conditions were right. In an interview with German-language news magazine Der Spiegel last week, Hastings said Netflix doesn’t go into sports programming because it simply cannot control the source.

“We don’t own the Bundesliga, they can make deals with whoever they want. But that kind of control would be a prerequisite for us to be able to offer our customers a safe deal,” Hastings told the magazine.

Hastings very pointedly left the door open when it came to Formula 1 Racing.

“A few years ago, the rights to Formula 1 were sold. At that time we were not among the bidders, today we would think about it,” Hastings said.

Netflix does plan to continue efforts to ramp up gaming, with projects like the Oculus Quest VR title 'Eden Unearthed' and the upcoming WWE interactive special Escape The Undertaker.

Asked about the legal squabble between Disney and Black Widow’s Scarlett Johansson over movie release strategies and creative compensation, Sarandos was respectful of the talent side of the equation.

“Talent has to be respected and compensated competitively,” he said. “I watch these things as a spectator; I would have said this or said that … I’m fortunate that we have not been in those shoes.”

Keeping that sort of creative mindset up front, Sarandos said that Netflix removed comedian Dave Chappelle’s Chappelle's Show last year at Chappelle’s request after he told Sarandos that he was not being compensated fairly by ViacomCBS. Following the negotiation of a new deal for Chappelle, Netflix put the series back on the platform.

“Very few deals are as bad as that one was,” Sarandos said, referring to the initial Chappelle deal. “I’m betting on our long-term relationship with Dave.”

Likewise, Sarandos defended his decisions to strike deals with creative giants like Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes.

“If we didn’t do that deal with Shonda, Bridgerton would have been somewhere else,” he said.

Looking at the performance of shows and movies on Netflix, Sarandos was excited, pointing at engagement numbers as shown on a pair of slides. One of the slides displayed the most popular Netflix shows based on the streamer’s proprietary metric of the number of accounts that selected and streamed a particular title for at least two minutes during its first 28 days of release. The second slide showed the total time spent viewing by hours inside that initial 28-day release window. The information shown by the second slide is data that Netflix has not previously made available.

Sarandos said the move is in an attempt to be more transparent with talent and the marketplace. The company’s streaming data, he said, is “a big black box, mostly.”

According to the slides, the most-watched film on the service is Extraction, while the 2018 release Bird Box was the most engaged with feature, based on the first 28 days after release. These numbers are not far off from what we've already reported.

“For a subscription business, engagement really matters,” Sarandos said as he unveiled the data. “This is a real indicator of value,” he added, as it was noted that there was not a single licensed TV series or film among the top titles listed.

Sarandos said the Korean survival drama Squid Game, which premiered on the platform on Sept. 17, has a chance to become the biggest Netflix show ever. It now ranks as the number one show on the service worldwide.

“We did not see that coming, in terms of its global popularity,” he said.

Squid Game

17 september 2021

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