Ted Sarandos has a long and storied career in telling you what to watch. He started out working in a video shop – where he says he was the original recommendation algorithm pointing out choices to regulars. Now, he's Netflix's Chief Content Officer, overseeing the video streaming service's venture into original programming with the likes of House of Cards and the new series of Arrested Development (starting on May 26th).
We caught up with him to chat about reviving old series, battling piracy and whether the UK and US versions of Netflix will ever offer the same content.
Will we ever have parity between the UK and US versions of Netflix?
The window of time between US broadcast and international availability is a gap and a problem everywhere. My goal is to make licensing much more global so the service has more global availability. All our original stuff is available on all our international sites and we’re moving more towards ubiquitous global licencing. It’ll take years, unfortunately – but that’s what we’re steering towards.
What are you doing to combat piracy?
One of the things is we get ISPs to publicise their connection speeds – and when we launch in a territory the Bittorrent traffic drops as the Netflix traffic grows. So I think people do want a great experience and they want access – people are mostly honest. The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options. One of the side effects of growth of content is an expectation to have access to it. You can’t use the internet as a marketing vehicle and then not as a delivery vehicle.
Are we going to get more than one season of new Arrested Development?
Hopefully! It was very difficult logistically with a cast full of movie stars. They all had full-time jobs when we were making this season – Tony Hale of Veep, Jason Bateman was directing a film, Michael Cera was starring in a movie in Chile, Portia de Rossi was on an NBC pilot, Will Arnett was on weekly show Up All Night. We were constantly bringing everyone in and out. Now every episode is crafted around an individual character. Mitch Horowitz has made it so ridiculously fun and complicated – every episode intertwines with all the other ones. So a complete throwaway line is the punch line to something three episodes ago. So it was completely crafted for the Netflix viewers who could watch a bunch in a row.
Arrested Development creator Ron Howard has also been circling Stephen King’s The Dark Tower – any chance Netflix could pick it up?
I spoke to Ron about it, actually. The last time we talked about it the thing was being kicked about HBO – but it’s no longer there. Once Arrested Development gets through we’ll keep talking about it.
We did a feature about shows that Netflix could revive. So, as a fan, would you consider bringing back Twin Peaks?
It was on the bubble. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t get an email or a personal hand-written letter about that show.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
That’s one that’ll come up on everyone’s list. She’s a great character. If it was my property I’d do infrequent movies. There’s not enough kick-ass female characters like that.
It’s kind of been done, with Serenity, but yeah as a series. Let me give you one broad statement about these recovery shows. In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience.
When can we expect to see Netflix roll out 3D internationally?
The connection isn’t good enough yet so there’s not enough users who’d be able to experience it to put a lot of energy into it yet.
What about 4K?
It’ll be super interesting to see how it evolves, it’s super early and the pricing is obviously in the very early curve. If it evolves as a streaming only format it’ll be very interesting.
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