Cindy Holland, vice president for original content at Netflix, kicked off the INTV Conference in Jerusalem on Monday where she was playfully quizzed by Keshet CEO Avi Nir about ratings, statistics and strategy. Although Holland kept her cards close to her chest, she revealed that the average Netflix subscriber spends two hours a day on the streaming service.
Holland also said that most people around the world mainly watch Netflix on TV and multiple devices rather than on mobile devices only. In emerging markets, more people watch Netflix on mobile devices, but that’s not the dominant mode of viewing for Netflix globally.
When asked to identify Netflix’s potential rivals and reflect on the position of Apple, Disney and Amazon, Holland said there were opportunities for success for big entertainment companies as well as new players, but the real “challenge [for] a new entrant is to grow in the future.”
She said that unlike Google and Facebook, Netflix’s first priority is to entertain. “We’re very different from the large tech companies like Google and Facebook,” Holland said. “We have a different business model [and we’re] much closer to cable TV.”
Holland also reiterated Netflix’s ambition to ramp up its international output. Netflix is established in 190 countries and makes more than 80% of its acquisitions outside of the U.S.
She cited “Narcos” as one of the first shows Netflix made a deal for and said the series’ global success proved that non-English-language series could strike a chord with viewers everywhere. “If a series resonates really well in its home market. it will resonate everywhere,” said Holland, who cited the upcoming adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s seminal novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as an exciting project in Netflix’s non-English-language series pipeline.
One of the things she’s most proud of is “Orange Is the New Black,” which was a “real gamble, and it turned out pretty well,” Holland said. “It wasn’t designed to work around the world, but it absolutely did….Everyone expected ‘House of Cards’ to be good, but ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ no one saw it coming.”
Holland said a key strategic shift she spearheaded was Netflix’s move into the young adult space, which was initiated four-and-a-half years ago.
She said TV for teenagers was identified by Netflix as “the white space in the middle” that networks had not invested in because of the size of budgets needed to deliver shows with high production values. Tapping into that young adult demographic, Netflix came up with “13 Reasons Why” and “Stranger Things.” In the latter, Netflix chose to focus on the group of young characters in the series rather than on the police to convey a sense of wonder and family. Those two shows proved that “you can talk to young adults and be successful,” Holland said.
The session with Nir showcased a clip from “Kingdom,” Netflix’s second South Korean original series.
INTV is taking place March 11-12 in Jerusalem.