Do Netflix a favor, critics: Don’t review an original series like “Arrested Development” immediately after it launches in the wee hours of the night.
That’s the advice Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos offered Thursday at the Nomura Global Media & Telecom Summit, who faulted The New York Times in particular for rushing to judgement quite literally after 15 episodes of the series were released midnight Monday. Some of the bad reviews were cited as a reason for Netflix stock taking a 6% drop in early Tuesday trading.
“I hope you guys are really not trading on New York Times reviews,” joked Sarandos.
The New York Times reviewer Mike Hale knocked “Arrested Development” as “‘Rashomon on steroids,” going as far in his review’s opening line to write, “Chalk one up for the Internet: It has killed ‘Arrested Development.’”
Sarandos played down the impact of the review. “It got a bad review in The New York Times,” he said. “It’s not a Broadway show, it’s not going to close tomorrow because it got a bad review.”
Sarandos suggested the narrative complexity of the new season was so radically different than what the series achieved in previous season that only by viewing the entire 15 episodes could a critic get a true appreciation. He went so far as to compare the new season to the Zapruder film in the way that repeated viewings would reward the viewer by allowing them to notice things that weren’t apparent in the first viewing.
“If you’re a critic in New York and you set your alarm for 3 o’clock in the morning, and you wake up and watch a half-hour of television and write a review, which is like the equivalent of writing a review of the first 10 minutes of a movie, you’re probably not going to have a great experience,” said Sarandos. “And by the way, no one in the world had that experience. Everyone watched a couple of episodes, went to bed, woke up the next day and watched more.”
Sarandos noted that the reviews got better over time, though Netflix hadn’t sought out to please critics, anyway; the fans were the true target and their rapturous acclaim of the series on Netflix.com and social media were validation enough.
Consistent with Netflix policy, Sarandos didn’t offer much in the way of specifics regarding to the ratings performance of the series, but he did add, “We had extremely high expectations for viewing both in the first couple of days and over the life of the show. It met our expectations and we’re thrilled. Thrilled with both customer engagement and critical response.”