Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos says that “part “of the reason the streamer has long been tight-lipped about viewership data — even when it came to disclosing numbers to those creating the TV shows and films for the platform — is because of the talent’s own concerns about feeling “pretty trapped” by ratings and box office performance.
“At the time we started creating original programming, our creators felt like they were pretty trapped in this kind of overnight ratings world and weekend box office world defining their success and failures,” Sarandos said during a prerecorded analyst interview that went live Wednesday, following Netflix’s report on its third-quarter financial results. “And as we all know, a show might have enormous success down the road and it wasn’t captured in that opening box office. So part of this was the relationship with talent, not just the business aspects of it. And I do think that, over time, people are much more interested in this. We’re on the continuum today of, how much data do we publish? I think we’ve been leading the charge starting everyone down the path of a Top 10, publishing our Top 10 list and our annual wrap up list and everything to give a lot of transparency to the viewing. And I just expect will be more and more transparent.”
Sarandos’s comments come amid the ongoing actors strike, in which a key sticking point between SAG-AFTRA and the Hollywood studios has been increased streaming viewership transparency, and just a few weeks after the Sept. 24 end to the five-month writers strike, which also hinged on, among other points, the Writers Guild of America’s demand for streaming data to be shared with creators.
During the Wednesday interview, Sarandos — who was in the room alongside a handful of fellow top Hollywood CEOs to oversee the final negotiations between WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — reiterated Netflix’s commitment to striking a deal with SAG-AFTRA as well, despite talks recently breaking down between the actors and the studios.
“We want nothing more than to resolve this and get everyone back to work,” Sarandos said. “That’s true for Netflix. That’s true for every member of the AMPTP. It’s why our member CEOs have prioritize these negotiations above everything else we’re doing. We spent hours and hours with SAG-AFTRA over the last few weeks, and we were actually very optimistic that we were making progress. But then at the very end of our last session together, the guild presented this new demand that kind of, on top of everything, for a per subscriber levy, unrelated to viewing or success, and this really broke our momentum, unfortunately. But you should know we are incredibly, totally committed to ending the strike. The industry, our communities, the economy are all hurting. So we need to get a deal done that respects all sides as soon as we possibly can.”
Elsewhere during the interview, Sarandos spoke to the importance of third-party content at Netflix amid the immense popularity that USA Network drama “Suits” saw on the platform over the summer. The co-CEO noted that licensing third party content has always been “part of our strategy,” and he expects more to “pop right into the center of the culture” as titles including HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” come to Netflix.