Sarandos talks “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and the return of “Arrested Development,” possibly as a streaming-only movie
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” may have beat out Netflix’s “Houses of Cards” for best drama on the Emmys Sunday night, but it’s a loss that doesn’t bother the streaming company’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.
“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan personally thanked Netflix backstage for saving the show, which couldn’t find an audience in the U.K., where it was canceled after three seasons, Sarandos told the audience Tuesday at TheWrap’s Media Leadership Conference, TheGrill.
“We have a very interesting relationship with the show,” Sarandos said.
Indeeed, ratings for the show — whose last episode airs this weekend — began climbing in Season 3, after it started its Netflix run, as it became wildly popular with Netflix subscribers, Sarandos said. And the platform continues to introduce the series to new viewers every day.
“The most-watched episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ on Netflix last night was the pilot,” he said. “With all the excitement of what’s happening right now (as the show nears its close), people started watching the show from the beginning.”
Of course, Sarandos expressed even more pride in its own growing storeroom of original programming. The streaming service won its first Primetime Emmy as a content provider when “House of Cards” director David Fincher walked away with the Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. The political drama was nominated in nine categories overall, while fellow newbie Netflix original series “Hemlock Grove” was nominated in two.
Both series are shooting or close to shooting a second season, and Netflix’s first original series, “Lilyhammer,” will return later this year. (Sarandos refused to give a release date.) Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais’ “Derek” and “Orange Is the New Black” — a critically acclaimed prison dramedy from “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan – both also will be returning.
“More people watched ‘Orange Is the New Black’ in the first week than any of our others, even ‘Arrested Development,’” Sarandos said –which is the closest Netflix has come to releasing any type of ratings to the public.
Despite “Orange” being based on a book about a woman’s 15-month prison term, and “House of Cards” is an adaptation of a 1990 British miniseries that spawned two sequel miniseries, Sarandos stressed that the source material will not play a factor in deciding how many seasons either runs for.
“In the case of ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ yeah it was a 15-month sentence, but there is no rule on how much time has passed. There’s a lot of possibility for that show to go very long,” he said. “Same with ‘House of Cards.’ The BBC version was three seasons, but we’ve taken a lot of detours from that series, as well.”
And rest assured “Arrested Development” fans, Sarandos assured the cult comedy will return to Netflix.
“There’s no question. It’s a matter of when and what form it takes,” Sarandos said. “We kicked around the idea of doing another season, or doing a movie.”
Regardless of the form, though, any continuation of “Arrested Development” will stream exclusively on Netflix. Theatrical distribution, he said, “is not really consistent” with the company’s brand.
The Bluth family returned to the small screen for a fourth season last summer after a seven-year absence. Due to scheduling conflicts with the busy cast and Netflix’s strategy to release the series in bulk, the show took on a unique form, which Sarandos described as more of an eight-and-a-half-hour movie compared to the series fans were used to.
“Mitch Horowitz had used our format to create something completely different,” Sarandos said.
Being different, of course, is bound to ruffle a few feathers, and not everyone was a fan of the storytelling method, which devoted an entire episode to one character. Sarandos admitted the show’s style worked against the it when initial reviews came out, but only because the critics didn’t see the whole picture — particularly how the last three episodes intertwined with the first three.
Sarandos credited the wild success of their first round of original programming to existing outside of the television network model, because the quality of the show is only half the battle on traditional TV, where scheduling also can make or break a show.
“We don’t have a fall schedule or primetime grid we’re trying to fill, so it does give us the luxury of waiting for the best projects,” Sarandos said. “It’s not just picking the right shows, it’s about picking when to put them on, and what show to put them on after, so we have a very luxurious environment for creating hits.”