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Netflix Boss Says Don’t Believe the Ratings You See for His Shows

TCA: Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos isn't ready to renew "Stranger Things" yet, but plans to spend even more money on programming next year.

Ted Sarandos

Ted Sarandos

Netflix

Ted Sarandos is not impressed with the ratings he’s seeing reported for Netflix.

In recent months, both Symphony Advanced Media and Nielsen have released data that purports to tally how many people are watching Netflix series. But Sarandos pointed out that the services claimed very different numbers for “Orange is the New Black.”

“Both Symphony and Nielsen claim accuracy,” Sarandos said, before pointing out that one service’s “OITNB” viewership was two times the other’s. “Either number, if true, would be great for Netflix. Especially since it’s only U.S. viewing and it’s only for the first 35 days of release.”

Sarandos points out that ratings, and reporting on ratings, is an “important piece of the business puzzle for ad-supported networks, for sure. But subscriber growth, not advertising, drives our revenues. We’ll do great by attracting more members… The performance of any given title in the U.S. in any given time period, the focus of the ratings companies has no relevance for us.”

READ MORE: ‘Fuller House’ Ratings Shocker: Bigger Audience Than Even ‘The Walking Dead’

Tackling the “Too Much TV” question, Sarandos suggested “there are too many mediocre, safe shows on TV.” He called the idea of too many shows “an arbitrary notion.” Who’s making mediocre TV? “We’ve got a few too! Not intentionally.”

Meanwhile, Sarandos said Netflix hasn’t yet finalized its budget for next year, but he says the service in 2017 will likely increase its programming budget from the $6 billion it is spending this year.

"The Get Down"

“The Get Down”

Netflix

Some of that money went to two of the most expensive TV shows in history: Netflix’s “The Get Down” and “The Crown.”

“Yes these are big expensive endeavors, absolutely,” Sarandos said. “We’re not just competing with an ABC comedy. We’re competing with Pokemon Go. And we’re competing with ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ movies. We’re competing for a lot of attention in a really noisy world. To do that you have to take some big swings.”

READ MORE: “Any Character That’s In There Is On The Table”: Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Talks The Future Of Marvel At Netflix

Also, Sarandos won’t yet announce a Season 2 for current pop culture phenomenon “Stranger Things” (although such a renewal is pretty much a foregone conclusion). “We want to take some time to be thoughtful about the process,” he said. Another show still awaiting renewal: The Will Arnett comedy “Flaked.”

One reporter, pointing out that even the Rob Schneider comedy “Real Rob” earned a second season, asked how low the bar is not to renew a show. “We look for shows that can sustain multiple seasons right off the bat,” Sarandos said. “Our shows tend to go more than one season.”

On the movie front, Sarandos reaffirmed its deal with Adam Sandler, pointing out that “The Ridiculous Six” and “The Do-Over” both premiered No. 1 in every territory in the world for Netflix. “The Do-Over” remains in the top 10 in many countries, he added.

As for “Chelsea,” Sarandos addressed the decision to remove the talk series’ showrunner: “I used to think the departure of a showrunner was a failure. Now I see it as a part of making a great show creatively.” 

He added that he isn’t concerned about a lack of buzz surrounding the show (which was just renewed for 90 more episodes).

“Only a small fraction of those people watched it last night,” he said. “We’re just trying to make an entertaining half-hour show.”

READ MORE: Read the Speech That Sent a Wake Up Call to TV and Film Studios: Netflix Chief Ted Sarandos Explains His Company’s Success at the FIND Forum

Netflix remains in growth mode, despite news of the service’s recent slow subscriber growth in the second quarter (which Sarandos attributed to price increases and rapid growth in the first quarter). Netflix launched in 130 countries this January, bringing its global footprint to 190 countries.

“There isn’t much history to judge what a global Internet TV network looks like, but you’re seeing one being built in real time,” Sarandos said.

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