The streaming video company now earmarks less than 5% of its content budget for original programming, and “that will grow to 10% to 12% to 15% over the next couple of years,” Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told investors today at the Nomura U.S. Media & Telecom Summit. Unique shows will help Netflix to distinguish itself from other online services. That could include cable and broadcast networks if they try to hold on to the rights of their shows as they begin to depend on viewing via the Web and on-demand services. The new episodes of Arrested Development that Netflix offered this weekend underscored the case for more original programming. “We were thrilled with the customer engagement and reviews,” Sarandos says. That might seem odd after some news outlets attributed a dip in Netflix stock on Tuesday to the New York Times‘ critical review of the series reboot. “It got a bad review in the New York Times, but it’s not a Broadway show and it’s not going to close because it got a bad review.” Sarandos jokingly described the series as “the Zapuruder film of sitcoms. People watch it over and analyze it frame by frame.…We made the show not for critics but for fans, and the fans loved the show.”
But the exec added that there are few shows that could be revived the way Arrested Development was. Fans of Joss Whedon’s short-lived space drama Firefly have lobbied Netflix. But Sarandos says TV cults typically “get more intense but smaller over time.” About 6M people watched Firefly when it was on and the current audience would be “fewer than the 6M who watched it.” Arrested Development was different because “the audience actually grew dramatically from the time it went off the air,” in part because many people discovered the series on Netflix.