Netflix Boss on Fuller House, Arrested Development, Marvel and How to Save Your Favorite Show
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix attends the "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" Series Premiere at SVA Theater on July 22, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Netflix wants to save your favorite show—but with a few caveats.
The streaming service, which has rescued series such as Arrested Development and Longmire after cancellation, has “no real policy” on which shows to revive, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
But there are a few boxes that need to be checked, and Sarandos said Longmire is the perfect example of a show worth saving.
“Sometimes a show gets canceled not because it ran out of creative steam,” he said. But in Longmire's case, A&E canceled the western because “it was attracting the wrong demographic to sell ads,” he said. “They were the wrong age. We find a way to make it work.”
In order to make it work, the financials have to make sense, and the creative element needs to remain in place. Beyond that, Sarandos said he’s looking for an “intact, passionate audience for the show as well.”
Sarandos added that he felt Longmire grew creatively stronger in later seasons. “It was a very hungry audience, but they were not going to watch that show anymore because they were the wrong age for the advertiser demographic.”
As for another revival, Fuller House, Netflix isn’t ready yet to announce a premiere date, but the show taped its first episode in the past week. “At the taping, when the cast showed up on stage, the audience reacted immediately,” Sarandos said. “It’s very much in the same spirit [as the original] but with a modern take.”
Fuller House was another example of a show that Sarandos said made sense for Netflix from both a business and audience perspective. “It is a really unique show in the culture, it never really went away,” he said. “It was very successful in syndication. It’s cross-generational. And we were able to re-assemble the cast.”
Sarandos added that he’s still holding out hope that the Olsen twins join the new show, and that the door remains open for their participation.
Meanwhile, Sarandos confirmed that “negotiations are under way” for another season of Arrested Development on Netflix. “It is our intent to have a new season of Arrested Development,” he said, but first producer 20th Century Fox TV must seal new deals with cast and producers. “It’s plugging along.”
Other topics discussed by Sarandos at the press tour:
• Despite the disappointing opening weekend box office for Pixels, Sarandos says he remains committed to Netflix’s movie output deal with star Adam Sandler.
“I don’t have to defend Adam Sandler,” he said, noting that a third of Netflix’s subscriber base is outside the United States, where Pixels did well. “He’s an enormous international global movie star.”
• Netflix’s Marvel series strategy remains the same: Some series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage) will run multiple seasons, with two launches a year. The Defenders miniseries follows. When will Iron Fist be cast? “Hopefully soon,” Sarandos said. “It’s always complicated with Marvel in announcing things.”
Could The Punisher eventually get his own series? Right now The Defenders is just those four characters, but anything is possible down the road, Sarandos said. “Any of them could spin out into films as well.”
• Netflix’s Bill Cosby comedy special, pulled last fall, won’t ever see the light of day, Sarandos said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate now,” he said.
• Netflix’s first original series, Lilyhammer, won’t return for another season. “It’s become a very economically challenged deal because there’s a partnership with the Norwegian broadcaster and it was becoming very difficult to maintain the level of global exclusivity we hope to with our shows with that show and the way the deal was structured,” he said.
• Netflix will program 475 hours of original programming in the coming year. That includes 16 scripted dramas and comedies, 9 original documentary features, 12 standup specials, 17 kids series and multiple documentary series. “There’s something special for every taste,” Sarandos said. “We respect our talents’ creative visions and so far it’s been working for us. We pick the players and get out of their way.”
But ratings still aren’t coming, and Sarandos doesn’t see his shows as competing with each other. “Our shows are built and designed based on audience. It’s successful if it attracts that audience segment. None are built to attract our entire 65 million subscriber base.”
• Sarandos is still not interested in bringing sports to Netflix, although he doesn’t rule it out one day. “Today, the real benefit of watching on Netflix is consumer control,” he says, noting that live sports doesn’t lend itself to Netflix’s on-demand model.
• Netflix’s movie slate includes Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous Six and the sequels Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend and Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday. Some will be released theatrically, making them eligible for Oscar consideration, while some (like The Ridiculous Six) will be Netflix-only, making them Emmy-eligible.
Sarandos said he’s not overly strategic in which platform the movies premiere on. “I think about made-for-TV vs. theatrical more in a look and feel and size way,” he said. “We may premiere a movie only on Netflix but it’s just a movie. I distinguish it from a movie-of-the-week or a Lifetime movie. These are movies produced with the size and scope of a movie that would appear in the theaters.”
For Ridiculous Six, the decision to stick to the Netflix platform comes out of the fact that Sandler’s “audience is mostly at home and they’re watching his stuff over and over again,” Sarandos said. “He’s incredibly popular on Netflix, and they’re watching it at home. He’s happy to premiere the movie on Netflix only, without a theater. There’s a little bit of lingering filmmakers who want their stuff on the big screen, but what I think they really want is their movie to be in the culture. I think when they see a Netflix premiered movie is in the culture, that will relax over time.”
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