The man with his eye on the next episode for Netflix
Chief content officer Ted Sarandos wants to double on-demand service’s spending on original shows
Breaking Bad, starring Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, has been one of Netflix’s biggest hits
Delayed gratification is not Netflix’s style. As one “chapter” of the streaming service’s “Originals” reaches the end credits, viewers are given a mere 10-second countdown to when the next episode will begin playing.
This is the age of binge-viewing and Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, the man in charge of its $2 billion programming budget, is an adept feeder.
“Some shows you know you did pretty well when you get a big jump-over. Sometimes you see a drop off, or people come back slower, so you get some sense that you almost lost them,” he says. “But because it is so much easier to come back in, they almost all come back.”
Netflix has developed a habit of pleasing viewers, in large part by producing its own shows, like Orange is the New Black (“a pop culture phenomenon”) and House of Cards (“it’s not congressional politics, it’s Shakespeare”). In this part of the world, it is also premiering the final season of Breaking Bad, a show that has been watched many more times on Netflix than it has on its commissioning network, AMC.
Some of the people paying the closest attention to what it does – the analysts paid to watch the stock market performance of Netflix Inc – haven’t always been as easy to satisfy.
In July, when Netflix’s quarterly earnings were published, the company comfortably beat earnings-per-share estimates, but the instant market reaction was to knock 7 per cent off its share price.
After adding three million in the House of Cards launch quarter, the 1.2 million added in the Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development quarter disappointed some on Wall Street.
“There’s a lot of moving parts always,” says Sarandos. “What does a growth curve look like? Nobody has been in the position we’re in today, a paid entertainment service with 38 million subscribers. It’s very new ground, so the analysts don’t know how to compare it. We don’t know how to forecast it sometimes. We know what we know and it usually turns out to be right.”
Sarandos was speaking to The Irish Times in Cambridge, in the wake of a public interview. Channel 4 executive Jay Hunt had grilled him on Netflix’s practice of not releasing country-by-country subscriber numbers and not revealing the viewer ratings for each show.
“We’re a public company. I’m pretty disciplined about these things,” he says afterwards, having told Hunt “you will just have to take my word for it that it is quite successful”.
Netflix officially has eight million international subscribers, but a recent estimate that it has 1.5 million customers in Ireland and Britain, including 150,000 in Ireland, is “a third-party number”.