Ted Sarandos Defends Adam Sandler-Netflix Deal in Wake of ‘Pixels’ Bow

Netflix's Ted Sarandos Says There's No
Eric Charbonneau/Netflix

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos defended the wisdom of his decision to sign Adam Sandler to a multi-picture deal despite the weak domestic box office return of his latest theatrical release, “Pixels.”

Sarandos cited the international strength of the Sony release as a good fit for Netflix’s increasingly international audience in a Q&A session with reporters Tuesday morning at the opening of the Television Critics Assn. press tour at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.

“We did our deal with Adam Sandler because he is an enormous international movie star,” he told reporters. “We are as encouraged as ever.”

Sandler’s box office clout came into question again after a weak opening weekend in which “Pixels” collected $24 million in the U.S. and slightly more than that in overseas markets. Marvel’s “Ant-Man” topped “Pixels” to lead the box office.

Nevertheless, Sarandos characterized himself as “thrilled” with the deal he struck last year to bring four titles from Sandler to the streaming service in the coming years.

“I don’t feel I have to defend Adam Sandler,” he said.

Talking with reporters further after his formal Q&A, Sarandos also addressed the controversy kicked up by complaints from talent on the set of Sandler’s first production, “The Ridiculous Six,” with regard to the depiction of Native Americans.

“When people see ‘Ridiculous Six,’ the show will speak for itself,” said Sarandos. “When the movie comes out, people will see it’s fair.”

Beyond Sandler, Sarandos used the TCA stage to tout the collective strength of his slate of Netflix original programming, which now includes 16 scripted dramas and comedies. Taken together with feature films, documentaries, standup specials and kids programming, Sarandos estimated 475 hours of original fare would hit the streaming service this year.

He explained that the rationale for moving so aggressively into originals — Netflix had just two series online a mere 30 months ago — had less to do with the growing amount of competition in the streaming sector and more to do with differentiating the service with content unavailable anywhere else.

To highlight the important of Netflix exclusivity, Sarandos noted in response to a question about the Hulu-“Seinfeld” deal that the substantial expense of that content doesn’t prevent the classic comedy from being seen elsewhere, like on TBS and Crackle.

“I think there’s a bunch of holes in the exclusivity relative to the economics of that deal,” he said, noting that a simultaneous worldwide release also help curb piracy.

In April, Hulu announced a deal to secure the entire “Seinfeld” library at a cost estimated to be worth $160 million.

Back on the originals front, Sarandos indicated that he continues to be “plugging along” in pursuit of another season of “Arrested Development,” the former Fox sitcom he resurrected in 2014.

“It’s a really long, complex deal to make for these guys because talent is busy working on other shows and the show is owned by Fox,” he said. “It is our intent to have a new season of ‘Arrested Development,” and all the negotiations are underway.”

In addition, Sarandos confirmed that Netflix’s first-ever original-series co-production, “Lilyhammer,” would not return after three seasons, citing the “economically challenged” dealmaking that would have been required to get more episodes.

With Netflix’s rapidly growing international expansion, Sarandos also touched on the challenge of programming for the streaming service’s first Asian market, Japan. Citing the relatively diminished popularity of U.S. TV content in Japan, he nevertheless professed optimism that he could crack the market successfully.

“I’m not fully convinced that the Japanese have radically different taste than the rest of the world,” he said, citing a lack of choice heretofore in Japan that could end up differentiating Netflix there.

Earlier in the day, Netflix made a range of original-series announcements including the third-season renewal of “BoJack Horseman” and premiere dates for “Longmire” and Aziz Ansari vehicle “Master of None.”

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  1. John Freimann says:

    So “Ant Man” beat “Pixels” at the box office; but, for some reason the numbers are never listed. In practically every news story this seems to be the case. In fact, the numbers are NOT that significantly different. What’s going on here????

    • jedi77 says:

      Ant-Mans second weekend beat Pixels first weekend. What the hell are you talking about?
      Are you paranoid or just a troll?

  2. tammy says:

    Love Ted Saranos! What a sweetheart !! #Respect

  3. Sonny Skyhawk says:

    Adam Sandler is a tired has been comedian, who refuses to lay down, and Netflix thought they were really going to cash in. PIXELS is the tip of the proverbial iceberg of failure for him and Netflix, and their stock will follow. Why all the gloom? Because, you can’t be a bigot and get away with it for very long, sooner or later it catches up. Sarandos made a bad deal and now he is trying to justify it at the TCA.

  4. Adam says:

    The poor box office performance of “Pixels” has nothing to do with Adam Sandler. No one cared about the 80’s nostalgia. The problem with the film was the premise.

    • jedi77 says:

      Actually, one might even say that box office performance might have been worse, were it not for Sandler.
      But all in all, lets face it. Sandler is gone, and he ain’t coming back.
      He knows this, which is why he made the Netflix deal in the first place.
      Unless he pulls a fast one and uses the Netflix deal to make attempts at serious acting, instead of tired comedy.

  5. Bill B. says:

    This was a smart move by Sandler who has to be very aware that his career is in a steep decline, but I can’t imagine that these Netflix projects are going to suddenly show us a new side of him. His interest is the paycheck, not the quality of the project.

  6. Warrior Jr. says:

    I HATE to defend anything having to do with Adam Sandler, but a streaming platform having an exclusive deal with a star who can bring in $24 million on opening weekend at theaters is a savvy business deal, considering that another one of Netflix’s much-touted feature deals is for an indie film, “Beasts of No Nation,” that would be hard-pressed to even top $20 million in its *lifetime* at theaters.

    But that’s ONLY if you’re using the barometer of theatrical box-office, which as another commenter mentioned, ultimately has no real bearing on Netflix performance. They have all of their data, they know how their titles perform, and they make deals accordingly. Ultimately, we have no idea how this slate will pan out for them.

  7. Michael Anthony says:

    What else could Netflux say? If i was on the board, idvquestion the wisdom of a deal for that many pics. Maybe one, but that’s pushing it. As with ALL stars, they age out. And when one considers how long Sandler has been making the SAME movie again and again.

    The funniest part is listening tto them defending the move. I don’tthink most people could keep a straight face!

  8. Andy Salmen says:

    What the article should have stated is that a title’s Box Office failure or success really has little or no bearing as to its success on Netflix’a digital platform. Box office is NOT the end-all and be-all nor is it an accurate barometer of digital success (never really was… just a legacy distribution window w/ limited options). Its a brave new world out there. Get on board or watch it pass you by.

    • nerdrage says:

      Well it’s one thing for Netflix to greenlight some odd show from the Wachovski’s that probably didn’t do Daredevil numbers for them, but definitely has a passionate following judging from online chatter, and passion is what keeps people’s fingers away from the Pause Account button. But is Adam Sandler really in this passionate-niche category? His broad, juvenile humor works for the mainstream or it doesn’t work at all. Something like Bojack Horseman is more the Netflix style of humor – definitely not aimed at the lowest common denominator.

      • Jedi77 says:

        “Nerdrage” is right.
        Is a “Netflix Only” Sandler movie really a take it or leave it proposition, that will bring in people?
        I doubt it. Regardless of whether it’s Box Office or digital platform, his movies are best ‘enjoyed’ (if you can say that) as a sunday afternoon distraction.
        And I doubt that those are the ones bringing new subscribers to Netflix, or the ones keeping those subscribers hooked.

        The Jolie film, the Brad Pitt film, these I can understand. To an extent. They are pretty high profile, and while many would no go see them at the movies, they may well tune in when it’s online and “free”.
        But I still say that serialized content is the way to go for Netflix, not movies.
        To much money for too little time.
        And a “Netflix Only” movie once in a while doesn’t keep my subscriptions alive.
        Shows like Bloodline, HOC and OITNB do.

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