In what will be seen by many as a 2015 Cannes Festival’s keynote speech, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos will talk at next week’s 68th Cannes Festival about how new distribution models impact the financing and production of films.
Part of Cannes Film Market’s NEXT program, its new future of cinema forum, Sarandos’ In Conversation event – an onstage interview – will take place Friday May 15. Cannes Fest chief Thierry Fremaux will introduce Sarandos.
The Netflix CCO’s focus – on film, not TV – is significant; Sarandos’ presence at the Cannes Festival – his first ever – could hardly come, moreover, at a more crucial time for Europe’s national film industries.
Sarandos is a regular TV event speaker, delivering a keynote at Cannes’ Mipcom trade fair last October, addressing journalists at the TV Critics Assn in January. At NATPE, the Miami TV confab, also in Jan., Sarandos said that Netflix aimed to launch “about 20” original scripted series per year to appeal to “really diverse tastes around the world.”
In film, Sarandos has fought an ongoing verbal war with U.S. theater owners over their refusal to contract release windows or play ball on day-and-dating with Netflix. The U.S. subscription VOD giant has inked a pact with Adam Sandler to star in and produce four exclusive Netflix movies, and pacted with The Weinstein Co. to day-and-date a “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel the same day on the streaming video service as Imax theaters.
Netflix has had a decisive impact on the future of the film industry, as the world’s biggest subscription-based VOD service. Over 62 million members in over 50 countries enjoying more than 100 million hours of TV shows and movies per day.
Yet, as Netflix already operates in 13 territories in Europe, plans new launches there for this year, such as in Spain, and says it aims to expand to 200 countries in the next two years, Sarandos has yet to go into much detail about Netflix’s plans for international film financing and production.
These could be key. Sarandos’ Cannes Market Q & A will come just nine days after the European Commission unveils proposals on May 6 for a single digital market. These look set to include plans to abolish geo-blocking, where online movies/TV shows legally bought for one territory are prevented from being viewed in another. Passionately opposed by both Europe’s film and TV industries and the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA), opposition to the move looks like becoming the cause célèbre of this year’s Cannes Festival. Netflix is seen, maybe wrongly, as one of its only industry beneficiaries.
Sarandos’ In Conversation looks set to be a large highlight at the Cannes Film Market’s NEXT program, the Cannes Film Market’s – and Cannes Festival’s – new digital cinema forum and their first-ever extended networking, think-tank and training initiative that launched 2014. Running May 13-22, NEXT will be dramatically expanded for its second edition, including in its number of panels.
“We are delighted to welcome Ted Sarandos to Cannes. Netflix is a key player among the new wave of companies using innovative approaches and enhancing technology to create new models driving the industry forward. Ted is a huge addition to our line up and extraordinarily well positioned to address some of the key themes that we will be exploring at NEXT,” said Jerome Paillard the executive director of the Marché du Film.
Sarandos added: “We are delighted to be at Cannes at such a dynamic time and look forward to an open and entertaining discussion about our industry.”
The Netflix CCO’s In Conversation will be moderated by Laurent Cotillon, chief editor of Le Film Français. The full NEXT program will be announced later this week.