Today at The Hollywood Reporter, Lacey Rose published her interview with Ted Sarandos and Cindy Holland, Chief Content Officer and VP of Original Programming, respectively, at Netflix.
The interview is a candid look into how the company makes its original programming decisions and what's up next for them -- and after an attention-grabbing year for the streaming platform, Sarandos tells Rose that he'd like to double the amount of originals in 2014, to eight new series. The two seem to be incredibly delighted with how things have been going so far, with Netflix subscriptions increasing. They're also got reason to be proud of the critical response pouring in for "House of Cards," the eyeballs coming out for "Hemlock Grove," and rapt anticipation for "Arrested Development."
Here are the six most interesting quotes from the interview:
David Fincher took away stigma from directing for the internet.
Sarandos says, "The two things that got everyone's attention about the 'House of Cards' deal was the two-season commitment and David Fincher. After David Fincher directs a series for Netflix, no one else can say, 'Well, I'm not going to direct a series for the Internet.'"
Writing for Netflix is different. You have to plan for binge viewing.
Holland says, "Part of the conversation early on is thinking about it as a 13-hour movie. We don't need recaps. We don’t need cliff-hangers at the end. You can write differently knowing that in all likelihood the next episode is going to be viewed right away."
The British way of doing short series and ending when the story has run its course is an inspiration.
Sarandos says, "But one of the things I loved about 'Derek' is Ricky Gervais likes to make shows that exist in a one- or two-year time frame and then they’re done. I want our shows to be somewhere in between. So when people say how many episodes, I want it to be the exact number of episodes you need to tell the story perfectly. It’s very difficult to sustain a show beyond three years. Characters start to fall apart, and your writers turn over. Some of the other conventions that I'm happy to dismiss: How long does the episode have to be? And how many episodes does the season have to be? Because of the constraints of the business outside of Netflix, they have followed the same form -- 13 one-hour episodes -- but with 'Arrested Development,' the running times of the shows are not rigidly 22 minutes, and there's a 15-episode season."
There may just be more "Arrested Development."
Sarandos says, "We would love to do more, and we have a deal in place that says that there could be. The problem is logistics. They were all working full-time and doing this show in between, and they did it for the love of the show and for Mitch Hurwitz. If we can muster up that love again, we'd love to do it again. And we have talked openly about a movie scenario, too."
They use their data about user preferences to push their original content to viewers they know will love it.
Sarandos says, "You look at Kevin Spacey fans, and then you say, 'How about people who love political thrillers?' We went back and pulled all the political thrillers people have watched and rated highly. So you’ve got all these populations, and right where they overlap in the middle is the low-hanging fruit. If we can get the show ["House of Cards"] in front of these people, they will watch it and love it."
Netflix is pretty darn proud of their release-everything-at-once tactic.
"I got a call from every network executive I knew who said: 'Don’t be crazy. You've got this huge investment, drag it out. Make 'em come back every week, and you could launch new things off of them.' It just sounded to me like the same kind of managed dissatisfaction that is the entire entertainment business. I believe there’s a bigger business in customer satisfaction than managing business satisfaction."
There's a lot of other great stuff in the interview, including more info on the second phase of Netflix's original programming, which may move away from licensing and into ownership of properties. Check it all out here.