Netflix’s coronavirus safety protocols may prohibit Ted Sarandos from visiting sets, but the streamer’s co-CEO is looking on the bright side after revealing that the guidelines are actually saving money and cutting shoot times on some productions.
Speaking at the virtual Mipcom, where he was accepting the Variety Vanguard Award, Sarandos revealed that Netflix has seen a surprising upside to the layers of pandemic procedure, which many feared could cripple the industry with inflated production budgets and longer filming schedules.
Sarandos said Netflix shoots, such as The Witcher and Sex Education, are now “mostly up and running” — and sets are running more efficiently as people adapt to new ways of working. People are also not falling prey to pre-pandemic illnesses, such as the flu, he added in a wide-ranging interview.
“Because of all these safety protocols and people being very supportive of these safety protocols, productions run much smoother, so you actually save some shooting days sometimes. Shooting days are shorter, the sets are better run, there’s fewer people on sets sometimes, which keeps the trains running on time,” he said.
“So there’s been some recovery in that. The other thing is you get unforeseen financial benefits of people not getting sick. Going into flu season, all these safety protocols for Covid are going to prevent people also from getting the flu as frequently as they did and you would lose shooting days to the flu. In general, it’s been not as difficult a financial pain point.”
Pointing to Korea, Sarandos said the markets that got back into production quicker were those that jumped on coronavirus with “large-scale testing” and track and trace systems. “The countries that took this seriously at a federal level have advanced things like production and all forms of essential work,” he added.
Sarandos, who was elevated to co-CEO in July, joked that he’s missing set visits. “We’re shooting about 100 yards from where I’m sitting right now on a stage and it’s making me a little crazy that I can’t go over there because of our safety protocols that I don’t go visit the sets,” he laughed, adding that the lack of international travel has also eaten into his Netflix viewing time. “I do have to be more disciplined about regimenting my time.”
Reflecting on Netflix’s empire of 190 countries, Sarandos suggested that one place he definitely won’t be visiting regularly any time soon is China. The streamer, like other tech giants, has made efforts to crack the Middle Kingdom, but Sarandos said it is not currently a priority.
“I think the local government in China would like the Chinese version of Netflix to be Chinese,” he said. “A lot of folks in the industry, I think, have been running into walls trying to change that. Eventually, those walls will come down, but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time really soon and I’m glad that we spend most of our energies in countries that welcome Netflix to be part of the entertainment landscape.”
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