Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos On The Return Of Licensing – “It’s The Natural State Of The Business”

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Ted Sarandos acknowledged that Netflix may be making fewer movies than it used to — because it’s so much easier to license them now.

As streaming losses mounted at traditional media companies there’s been a big shift, back to Netflix, which, in its early days used to pad studio coffers with cash until they got nervous, pulled back and more recently began aggressively repurposing content for their in-house platforms. That led to Netflix’ big push into original content.

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“We ramped up at that kind of aggressive pace because we had no access to license films” and not much of a library, Sarandos, co-CEO of the giant streamer, said at the UBS media conference in NYC. “What has happened is that the availability to license has opened up a lot more.” He cited deals with Sony and Universal (which just delivered, respectively, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse and The Super Mario Bros. Movie. (Sony, which doesn’t have a streaming service, has been the one Hollywood studio that’s consistently licensed content.)

That’s “the more natural state of the business,” he said. Studios we’re “always built” to license. “The unnatural state was forced integration.”

He said the benefits flow through to the studios themselves to creators and shows from Suits to Cobra Kai, from Breaking Bad and Schitt’s Creek to Shameless and The Walking Dead.

“The payback for them is enormous,” he said.

“They are trying to find profitability, they are trying to navigate their linear businesses, their legacy businesses…We only had to navigate the DVD business and streaming.” He mused about what it would feel like “trying to make money in theatrical [and] trying to attract advertising to my streaming service while they are fleeing my [linear] networks.”

He touted Netflix original films too, including Bradly Cooper’s Maestro, Leave The World Behind starring Julia Roberts and Adam Sandler’s animated Leo. Animated features are one area where Netflix will continue to grow — as eight of the top ten most streamed movies ever have been animated features, Sarandos told investors. Netflix recently inked a multi-year deal with Skydance Animation.

Unscripted local language content is also an area of focus. “We’re just starting on that.”

He said the company is “just thrilled that the strike is behind us.” The streamer’s business wasn’t affected all that much because of a deep slate and lessons from Covid when “We were able to shuffle things around a little bit and add a lot of international programming.”

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