LILLE, France — The battle between the world’s global streaming services will be fought over talent.
Nothing more appropriate then that Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix would use his In Conversation keynote at Series Mania to highlight one of Netflix’s banner talent relationships, with “Black Mirror’s” Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.
This was a sometimes laugh-out-loud casting call to anybody in the audience to come to work with Netflix.
Sarandos did talk about Netflix business, announcing that Netflix now has 15 productions in France in various states of production, part of a $1 billion investment in original projects in Europe.
He also reconfirmed Netflix’s larger vision, just as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did one year before sitting on the same stage at the Lille Transatlantic Dialogues.
“It’s never been our initiative to export Hollywood to the world. Our goal is to bring the greatest storytelling in the world to the world.”
Nor was Sarandos keen on the term disruption.
“It has negative connotations. I think disruption means more like burning things down and seeing what happens, and that’s not what we are up to.”
He added: “You have to realize studios have been making films and series for 100 years. Certain things work and the connections are rooted in tradition and we don’t want to lose those things.”
Netflix wants to “preserve and improve on formats and grow storytelling,” Sarandos observed.
The conversation, however informal, did suggest at least three ways in which Netflix is breaking molds, at least from the viewpoint of Sarandos, Brooker and Jones.
“There is a lot of conventional wisdom in TV about what does and doesn’t travel. In almost every case it’s not true,” said Sarandos.
Then there’s the speed at which Netflix wants to produce. “You feel as if you are working with someone on your production, someone well aware of restrictions, the need for decisions, wanting to get something made as much as you do. The speed with which Netflix responds, it’s ridiculous.”
Netflix will take sometimes large risks, something many traditional broadcasters can’t afford.
“As a commissioner you need a good appetite for risk and stepping into things that haven’t been done before,” said Sarandos, calling “House of Cards” “a big swing from the out of the gate.”
How do you minimize risk? Talent. “The bet was if you picked the right storytellers and worlds and gave them the tools, it would pay off well,” Sarandos said.
“Bandersnatch was “quite a challenge,” said Brooker. “We had a story idea that only worked if it was interactive. There was a part where the character knows they are controlled by the viewer, so there was only the one way.”