×

Netflix Exec: Productions From the Obamas Will Not Have a ‘Political Slant’

Netflix has inked a multiyear deal with the Obamas for original programming — but the content from the former First Couple will not have any political bias, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

“This is not The Obama Network,” said Sarandos, speaking Tuesday at the Paley Center for Media in New York. “There’s no political slant to the programming.”

Sarandos was interviewed journalist Ken Auletta at the event. Noting that the Netflix exec is a Democrat, Auletta asked what he would say to Republicans about Netflix’s seeming push to the political left — including the appointment of former Obama adviser Susan Rice to its board.

“Um, wait for the programming,” Sarandos responded.

He said Netflix’s deal with Higher Ground Productions, the production shingle formed by Barack and Michelle Obama, is for entertainment programming, including scripted films and TV shows as well as unscripted lifestyle content and docu-series. Netflix officially announced the deal last week.

The Obamas were forming Higher Ground Productions as they were leaving the White House, according to Sarandos, who added, “I didn’t want to see them go anywhere else because I think they’ll be great at it.”

That said, Sarandos allowed that “it’s hard to argue that there’s not a left lean to the creative community.” But he insisted that the original content Netflix greenlights and distributes is “an aggregation of all those storytellers,” not reflecting “the politics of me” or Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings.

Sarandos in particular has a close relationship with the Obamas. His wife, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in President Obama’s first term in office.

The rest of Sarandos’ discussion with Auletta covered topics he’s addressed before. Netflix will spend up to $8 billion on content in 2018, and 85% of that is going toward originals, a figure Sarandos cited at an investment conference earlier this month. He noted that Netflix’s “originals” include TV shows that have aired in other countries which the company licenses for global distribution.

Sarandos also explained, once again, that Netflix does not release viewing metrics because it’s not an ad-supported network. Netflix doesn’t need to have an instant hit, he averred, arguing that the release of TV ratings puts pressure on a show’s creators early in its life cycle.

“We have many shows that don’t work the first weekend, or first week, or first month,” Sarandos said. But over time, “they grow and grow and grow.”

Netflix produces and acquires content for 2,000 different “taste clusters” of people who subscribe to the service, according to Sarandos. A successful content investment for Netflix prompts some portion of its subscriber base to sign up or keeping paying, but what resonates with one cluster “may not work for you,” he said.

Sarandos also reiterated Netflix’s position that collapsing movie-release windows is a more economically efficient model for the film business. “I put 33 movies in the theaters last year – more than any other studio,” he boasted, although of course most of those were smaller-budget films. Netflix is targeting the release of 80 original films this year, which Sarandos previously has said range from “sub-indie” low-budget pictures to “$100 million blockbusters.”

More TV

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T's DirecTV, U-verse Platforms Amid Contract Battle

    CBS’ 28 O&O stations are going dark for about 6.6 million subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms as the Eye and AT&T battle over a new retransmission consent contract. The blackout affects CBS and CW-affiliated stations in 14 major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Also off the air are the CBS [...]

  • Orlando Bloom Comic Con Immigrant San

    Orlando Bloom Claims San Diego Mayor Ran From Comic-Con Exhibit Featuring Immigrant Characters

    Did an immigration storyline cause Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to run out of Amazon Prime Video’s Comic-Con activation this week? According to “Carnival Row” star Orlando Bloom, that’s exactly what happened. At Amazon’s “Carnival Row” panel, Bloom told the audience that Faulconer stopped by the Prime Video activation and chose the “Carnival Row” [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final Season Backlash 'Media-Led Hate Campaign'

    What is life like now after “Game of Thrones?” That’s the question that fans have been asking themselves and that cast members had to answer at the show’s final Comic-Con panel. But first, Conleth Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and several others cleared the air and addressed the perceived negative response to the final season. “I don’t [...]

  • SDCC Roundup: AMC Drops 'The Walking

    SDCC TV News Roundup: AMC Releases 'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Trailer (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con has become a hotbed of entertainment news in recent years, especially for the television industry. In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, AMC dropped a trailer for the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” and FX released a first look at “Mayans MC” Season 2. FIRST LOOKS AMC debuted the trailer for Season [...]

  • ARCHER: 1999 -- "Cubert" -- Season

    'Archer' Renewed for Season 11 at FXX

    “Archer” has been picked up for an eleventh season. The announcement was made Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. The news comes less than a week ahead of the Season 10 finale. Season 11 is slated to debut on FXX in 2020. While the show initially focused on the agents and support staff of a covert [...]

  • Carnival Row

    Amazon Debuts New 'Carnival Row' Footage at Comic-Con (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con attendees got an extended look at the upcoming Amazon drama “Carnival Row” during the show’s panel at the annual fanfest on Friday. Two new featurettes (see above and below) offer in-depth looks at the backstories of the two main characters — Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevigne) and Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom). Delevigne plays [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content