Ted Sarandos

Co-CEO, Netflix


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-hour interview, Ted Sarandos talks about growing up in Phoenix, his early journalistic ambitions, and his childhood love of television. He discusses how he began working at video stores and his post-college career at video distribution companies and overseeing revenue share deals. He talks about coming to the attention of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, their first meeting, and how he came to be hired as Netflix’s Chief Content Officer. Sarandos discusses the company’s transition from DVD rentals to streaming content, and its launch into creating its own original programming. He shares the story of how House of Cards came to Netflix, including the creative freedom they offered executive producer David Fincher and talks about the impact of Netflix releasing entire seasons of shows at once. He touches on how Stranger Things came to Netflix and discusses Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which used interactive technology to tell its story. Sarandos shares information about Netflix’s algorithm and user data, as well as its interface and how the company has made decisions about sharing ratings and viewership numbers. He discusses the importance of pay equity and diversity, both for creative talent and executives at the company and touches on the controversy surrounding Netflix content qualifying for Academy Awards and Emmy Awards. He concludes by talking about Netflix’s impact on the entertainment industry and sharing his advice for aspiring entertainment professionals. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on August 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I think 'entertainment' is just such a trite way to describe what’s happening on TV, because what’s happening is so much more important. What makes you cry? What makes you laugh? What makes you think? What makes you go off and read something and figure something out? I think that interaction with television helps you figure out who you are. And I don’t know what’s more important than that."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Ted Sarandos on how Stranger Things came to Netflix, and on the use of real name brand products on the show
Ted Sarandos on his first impression of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Hastings' predictions for the distribution of entertainment via the internet at the time of their meeting in 1999
Ted Sarandos on the creative freedom he offered David Fincher on House of Cards, including not requiring a pilot episode and guaranteeing two seasons, and on the effect of a whole season of a show being released all at once and people bingeing the show
Ted Sarandos on whether there is a Netflix "brand": "our brand ultimately is personalization"
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix walks the line between licensing content from other studios while also competing with those studios with Netflix's own original content
Ted Sarandos on "taste clusters" on Netflix, and on the Netflix user interface
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on doing an interview with Ed Asner when he was in high school and writing for the local paper, and on other interviews he conducted at the time; on his post-college career at video distribution companies and video stores; on the industry move from VHS to DVDs, and on overseeing his first revenue share deals
On how he came to the attention of Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, and on his first impression of Hastings; on how he got hired at Netflix as Chief Content Officer, and on his acquisition strategy at the time; on the development of the algorithm at Netflix, and on Netflix launching its streaming service in 2007; on the original attempt to separate the DVD and streaming businesses, and on the fact that Netflix (at the time of the interview) still offers the option to rent DVDs through the mail
On how Netflix moved into creating original programming, starting with Red Envelope, and on Netflix producing content; on Netflix beginning its true move into original production in 2011, and on how they came to stream House of Cards; on the creative freedom they offered David Fincher on House of Cards
On how the Netflix model of releasing a full season of series all at once has changed television, and his experience with appointment television growing up; on Netflix winning an Emmy for House of Cards; on making a sixth season of House of Cards without Kevin Spacey; on the shift in thinking at Netflix as it moved from being a tech company to a content creator network, and on whether there is a Netflix "brand"; on how he convinced Steven Van Zandt that it was a good idea to release Lilyhammer's first season all at once; on how Netflix's bingeing model has improved viewers' television experience

Chapter 2

On how Stranger Things came to Netflix; on Netflix's objection to Georgia's proposed restrictive abortion legislation; on licensing Breaking Bad to air on Netflix, and on how Netflix balances between licensing content and being a content creator; on the new competition from networks creating their own streaming services
On Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and on how Black Mirror came to Netflix; on how Netflix makes the decision to cancel a show, like One Day at a Time; on how Netflix uses the data is collects from users; on "taste clusters", and on Netflix's user interface
On the Netflix sharing (or not) their ratings and viewership numbers; on the executive team at Netflix, and on the fact that almost every executive has greenlight power; on Netflix making deals with big name producers and others; on the diversity of Netflix's executive team and its show creators, and on the importance of pay equity and transparency in compensation
On the controversy over the film "Roma" being nominated for Academy Awards; on 13th being nominated for both Emmy Awards and Academy Awards; on Netflix as a global company, and on Netflix's impact on the entertainment industry; on advice for aspiring entertainment professionals and the best advice he's received
Shows

Arrested Development

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on Netflix picking up Arrested Development for streaming

Black Mirror

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which used interactive technology to tell the story
Ted Sarandos on how Black Mirror came to Netflix

Breaking Bad

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on Netflix licensing the first two seasons of Breaking Bad as the third season of the show was airing on AMC, and how that led to the total audience for the show growing

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on Netflix winning an Emmy for House of Cards, and on the confusion over whether Netflix should quality for Emmy Awards because it was a streaming series

House of Cards

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix came to stream House of Cards as its own original programming, and how they pitched themselves to David Fincher, who was executive producing the show
Ted Sarandos on the creative freedom he offered David Fincher on House of Cards, including not requiring a pilot episode and guaranteeing two seasons, and on the effect of a whole season of a show being released all at once and people bingeing the show
Ted Sarandos on Netflix winning an Emmy for House of Cards, and on the confusion over whether Netflix should quality for Emmy Awards because it was a streaming series
Ted Sarandos on how he made the decision to shoot a sixth season of House of Cards without Kevin Spacey, following Spacey's #MeToo scandal

One Day at a Time (2017-)

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix makes the decision to cancel shows, as it did with the remake of One Day at a Time

Stranger Things

View Show Page
Ted Sarandos on how Stranger Things came to Netflix, and on the use of real name brand products on the show
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix was able to use real, name brand products on Stranger Things

Advice

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on what he's learned from television and getting the opportunity to work with some of his heroes, and on his advice for aspiring entertaiment professionals
Ted Sarandos on the best advice he's received in his career

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on writing for the local newspaper when he was in high school and getting the opportunity to do an interview with Ed Asner

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on the importance of diverse voices in the executive team at Netflix, as well as the creators of its content, and on the female show creators at Netflix
Ted Sarandos on the importance of pay equity, and on the importance transparency in regards to executives' pay and diversity data in production

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on Netflix winning an Emmy for House of Cards, and on the confusion over whether Netflix should quality for Emmy Awards because it was a streaming series
Ted Sarandos on 13th having been nominated and eligble for both Emmy Awards and Academy Awards, and on how Netflix's content has been embraced, or not, by the Academies

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on how he made the decision to shoot a sixth season of House of Cards without Kevin Spacey, following Spacey's #MeToo scandal
Ted Sarandos on Netflix objecting to Georgia's proposed restrictive abortion legislation, as Netflix films many shows in Atlanta
Ted Sarandos on the importance of diverse voices in the executive team at Netflix, as well as the creators of its content, and on the female show creators at Netflix
Ted Sarandos on the importance of pay equity, and on the importance transparency in regards to executives' pay and diversity data in production

Interactive Technology

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which used interactive technology to tell the story

MeToo Movement

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on how he made the decision to shoot a sixth season of House of Cards without Kevin Spacey, following Spacey's #MeToo scandal

New Media

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on his first impression of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Hastings' predictions for the distribution of entertainment via the internet at the time of their meeting
Ted Sarandos on the advantage that the "queue" system on Netflix provided over brick and mortar video stores
Ted Sarandos on originally trying to separate out the DVD and streaming services on Netflix when the streaming service first launched by putting the DVD business under Qwikster, and on the backlash to the company offering different prices and services for different users
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix moved into creating original programming, and on their first attempt, the documentary The Comedians of Comedy
Ted Sarandos on Netflix becoming producers of new content, rather than just a streaming service, and on shutting down their original production arm, Red Envelope
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's strategy for developing original content, starting in 2011, and on Netflix streaming House of Cards as its own original series
Ted Sarandos on Netflix not requiring pilots before buying series, beginning with House of Cards, and on how they made a decision to release the first season of House of Cards all at once (allowing viewers to binge watch the show)
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's model of releasing full seasons of shows all at once and how this changed television: "I wasn't consciously breaking the habit, I really felt like I was just enabling access to the programming to more people"
Ted Sarandos on why Netflix's bingeing model has improved viewers' television experience
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix walks the line between licensing content from other studios while also competing with those studios with Netflix's own original content, and on Netflix's main competition as networks begin their own streaming services and start reclaiming content from Netflix
Ted Sarandos on how (or whether) Netflix uses the data it collects from users in order to make programming decisions, and on what kind of data they collect
Ted Sarandos on "taste clusters" on Netflix - the categorization of types of shows the algorithm suggests for a user, and on Netflix's user interface
Ted Sarandos on how and why Netflix decides when to share their ratings and viewership data
Ted Sarandos on Netflix making deals with big names, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on writing for the local newspaper when he was in high school and getting the opportunity to do an interview with Ed Asner
Ted Sarandos on his role at Netflix when he was hired as Chief Content Officer in 2000, and on his acquisition strategy at the time

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on witnessing the move from VHS to DVD when he was working for the video store Video City
Ted Sarandos on the development of Netflix's algorithm
Ted Sarandos on Netflix launching its streaming service in 2007 and the biggest challenges of providing this service

Television Industry

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on his first impression of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Hastings' predictions for the distribution of entertainment via the internet at the time of their meeting in 1999
Ted Sarandos on the advantage that the "queue" system on Netflix provided over brick and mortar video stores
Ted Sarandos on originally trying to separate out the DVD and streaming services on Netflix when the streaming service first launched by putting the DVD business under Qwikster, and on the backlash to the company offering different prices and services for different users
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix moved into creating original programming, and on their first attempt, the documentary The Comedians of Comedy
Ted Sarandos on Netflix becoming producers of new content, rather than just a streaming service, and on shutting down their original production arm, Red Envelope
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's strategy for developing original content, starting in 2011, and on Netflix streaming House of Cards as its own original series
Ted Sarandos on Netflix not requiring pilots before buying series, beginning with House of Cards, and on how they made a decision to release the first season of House of Cards all at once (allowing viewers to binge watch the show)
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's model of releasing full seasons of shows all at once and how this changed television: "I wasn't consciously breaking the habit, I really felt like I was just enabling access to the programming to more people"
Ted Sarandos on why Netflix's bingeing model has improved viewers' television experience
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix was able to use real, name brand products on Stranger Things
Ted Sarandos on how Netflix walks the line between licensing content from other studios while also competing with those studios with Netflix's own original content, and on Netflix's main competition as networks begin their own streaming services and start reclaiming content from Netflix
Ted Sarandos on Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which used interactive technology to tell the story
Ted Sarandos on how (or whether) Netflix uses the data it collects from users in order to make programming decisions, and on what kind of data they collect
Ted Sarandos on "taste clusters" on Netflix - the categorization of types of shows the algorithm suggests for a user, and on Netflix's user interface
Ted Sarandos on how and why Netflix decides when to share their ratings and viewership data
Ted Sarandos on Netflix making deals with big names, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's impact on the entertainment industry
Ted Sarandos on what he's learned from television and getting the opportunity to work with some of his heroes, and on his advice for aspiring entertaiment professionals
Ted Sarandos on the best advice he's received in his career

Women

View Topic
Ted Sarandos on the importance of pay equity, and on the importance of transparency in regards to executives' pay and diversity data in production
Professions

Executives

View Profession
Ted Sarandos on the executive team at Netflix, and on the fact that almost everyone on the executive team has greenlight power
Genres

Awards Shows

View Genre
Ted Sarandos on the controversy over whether the film "Roma" was a feature film, since it was produced and streamed on Netflix and nominated for Academy Awards
Ted Sarandos on 13th having been nominated and eligble for both Emmy Awards and Academy Awards

Drama Series

View Genre
Ted Sarandos on House of Cards

News and Documentary

View Genre
Ted Sarandos on how What Happened, Miss Simone? came to be produced by Netflix

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

View Genre
Ted Sarandos on Stranger Things
Ted Sarandos on Black Mirror
People

Edward Asner

View Interview Page
Ted Sarandos on writing for the local newspaper when he was in high school and getting the opportunity to do an interview with Ed Asner

Louis C.K.

View Person Page
Ted Sarandos on Netflix's first attempt at original programming, the documentary The Comedians of Comedy, and how Louis C.K. was supposed to be part of the show, but was prevented by HBO because he had just signed a deal with the network

David Fincher

View Person Page
Ted Sarandos on how he pitched David Fincher on why House of Cards, which Fincher executive produced, should go to Netflix

Reed Hastings

View Person Page
Ted Sarandos on how he came to the attention of Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix
Ted Sarandos on his first impression of Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix
Ted Sarandos on Reed Hastings hiring him as Chief Content Officer at Netflix in 2000

Steve Van Zandt

View Person Page
Ted Sarandos on how he convinced Steven Van Zandt that releasing the first season of Lilyhammer all at once on Netflix was a good idea

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