Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, had the unenviable task of fielding questions at the Paley Center for Media conference on Thursday as shares of the company plummeted on news that subscriber growth was shrinking.
While he wasn't pressed too pointedly about the home entertainment giant's controversial decision to uncouple Netflix’s DVD and unlimited streaming services and raise prices, he did imply that the company could have done a better job of anticipating the blowback from subscribers.
"To precisely forecast and predict behavior of that many people on fairly radical change is something we’ll get better at all the time,” Sarandos said.
‘We do believe our customers will vote with their checkbook,” he added.
Though the votes haven’t all been cast, Sarandos told moderator Jon Miller, News Corp.’s chief digital officer, that he thinks the streaming service offered enough premium content to stand on its own.
“The separation timing is more of a ‘why not now’ rather than a ‘why now’ question,” Sarandos said.
For the most part, Miller left it at that, allowing Sarandos to boast about Netflix’s technological advancements, without dwelling on its stock headaches.
That didn’t mean that Sarandos skirted all the uncomfortable questions. Chief among them was what threat, if any, Netflix poses to traditional cable businesses.
He maintained that despite hype about an impending battle for subscriber dollars between streaming companies and broadcasters, their business models were fundamentally different. Television, Sarandos argued, has become a destination for live events, whereas Netflix is a venue for films and older television series.
“We have no sights on sports…or ‘American Idol’ or talk shows or ‘The Daily Show’ or any of that,” Sarandos said.
In fact, Sarandos claims that Netflix’s video service is a walking billboard for cable companies’ Internet operations, meaning that its digital success will add to their own enrichment.
“Netflix is a killer app for broadband,” Sarandos said.
In short: we come in peace.