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Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Talks ‘Sense8,’ ‘The Get Down’ Cancellations

With the cancellations this month of “Sense8” and “The Get Down,” Netflix has drawn attention for finally pulling the plug on high-profile series after years of renewals.

Speaking at the PGA’s Produced By conference Saturday on the Fox lot, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos unpacked those decisions.

“Relative to what you spent, are people watching it? That is pretty traditional,” Sarandos said in a conversation with Jerry Seinfeld, whose “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is moving to Netflix for its next season. “When I say that, a big expensive show for a huge audience is great. A big, expensive show for a tiny audience is hard even in our model to make that work very long.”

As Variety originally reported, “The Get Down” cost $12 million per episode to produce. Reports elsewhere have pegged the per-episode cost of “Sense8” at $9 million. Both were among the most expensive television series being made anywhere.

Sarandos praised “Sense8” and “The Get Down,” saying producers “made an incredible contribution to our culture with those shows.” He also addressed comments made last month by his boss, CEO Reed Hastings, who noted at the Code Conference that Netflix had canceled “very few shows” and said that the company’s “hit ratio is way too high right now,” signaling more cancellations in the future.

“Not to put words in his mouth, but what he meant was that Silicon Valley celebrates failure,” Sarandos said of Hastings. “It’s one of those things that you know you’re pushing the envelope if every once in a while you fall. And you go back and start over again. If you have hit after hit after hit, you question yourself — are you trying hard enough? Are you too conventional?”

Sarandos also spoke about the controversy over the company’s trip to Cannes earlier this year with original films “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which prompted a rules change at the festival to prevent future films from competing without receiving a full theatrical release.

“A film festival is meant to celebrate the art of filmmaking,” he said. “A lot of the things that you see at a film festival have no commercial viability at all. That really is the role of a film festival.” Addressing the rules change, Sarandos said, “It’s not even an independent selection process if they stand by that rule.” Of the festival, he added, “If it ceases to be about the celebration of film and filmmaking, I don’t think it can continue to be that relevant.”

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