By Sahil Patel
Netflix hopes to be available “everywhere in the world” within the the next five years, according to the company’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
During an on-stage interview at the 42nd annual Global Media and Communications Conference from investment bank UBS, Sarandos spoke at length about Netflix’s international expansion, as well as how the company’s original programming and content acquisitions strategy will evolve amid all of that growth.
Notably, Netflix recently expanded in Europe, launching in six major countries including France and Germany. Based on the initial data in those markets, as well as others Netflix already operates in, the company has come to realize that demand continues to be high for high-profile US shows.
In fact, until Netflix came on to the scene, most US shows took forever to travel to international markets. “When we launched in the Nordics, they were two years behind on ‘The Walking Dead,’” said Sarandos. “There is a big access issue outside of the US when it comes to TV,” as many buyers outside of the country would wait until a show was a bonafide success in the US before bringing it to their market, he added.
For Netflix, this is a great opportunity. Using France and Germany as examples, Sarandos said Netflix can be the network that brings access to in-demand shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Fargo.” The global rights that the company will continue to pursue — such as its deal with Warner Bros. for “Gotham” — will be fueled by the fact that most of the viewing in the territories Netflix currently operates in is for US content.
Interestingly, this demand has also doubled as a form of marketing when it comes to its original series. “France and Germany were interesting because we did not have ‘House of Cards’ in both markets,” said Sarandos. The high-profile political drama was sold to Canal Plus in France and Sky in Germany. “Yet people knew they were Netflix shows, which end up serving as great ambassadors for Netflix in those countries.”
Moving forward, as Netflix scales its business globally, it will also grow the number of original projects it delivers every year. Within the next five years, the company hopes to offer 20 original series per year. “An original series or season of content every two-and-a-half weeks or so,” said Sarandos.
That said, not all of the shows will have a broad appeal. Focusing on different segments of its global subscriber base, Netflix is going to try “to create shows for the audience that will love it,” said Sarandos. “Some big shows, like ‘Marco Polo,’ will have a very broad appeal. But there are some other shows that are in a more specialized market.” — such as “Lilyhammer,” which is big in Norway.
Among the other highlights from Sarandos’ session at the UBS conference, the executive was — obviously — asked about Nielsen’s recent announcement that it plans to measure viewing on SVOD streaming services. “I hope you have every confidence in that number as you have in Nielsen’s current tracking of TV,” he said with a laugh.
He’s also not worried about the potential for more and more TV networks to go over-the-top. “Studios have a very rich history of selling to their competitors. The way Fox makes ‘Modern Family’ for ABC. They are competing for eyeballs in the same time slots, but are still producing shows that might work better for another network,” he said. “We are one of the largest off-net buyers in the country, and in the world. And we will probably will be one of the largest producers of original programming in the world. And some of the shows will be produced by other networks.”