Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Talks Oscars, Losing ‘Friends’ and Their New Appetite for Animated Films

Netflix plans to keep revving up its movie slate in the coming year, although the volume of new releases will grow at a steadier pace following the ramp-up of the past 18 months, Netflix executives told investors Tuesday in discussing the company’s Q4 2019 earnings.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, and Netflix chief Reed Hastings told investors during the company’s quarterly earnings interview with Michael Morris of Guggenheim Securities, that being a contender in awards season is very much part of the business model. Netflix led all studios in Oscar nominations this year with a total of 24 bids, paced by Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” (10) and Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” (six).

“It’s exciting that we ended up being the most-nominated studio at the Oscars with those films. The most exciting thing is those films are all incredibly popular with our members as well,” Sarandos said. 

Hastings emphasized that Netflix sees awards as important to drawing top talent, a vital asset at a time when competition for shows and talent deals is fierce as Netflix faces a surge of subscription and ad-supported streaming competition in the coming year.

“The business benefit is that we will win deals that wouldn’t have otherwise for incredibly strong content,” Hastings said.

Sarandos pointed to the growth of the company’s internal production capabilities on the film side. And he cited feature animation as a big area of focus for the company. “Klaus,” the first Netflix original animated pic, was a “real crowd pleaser” and it nabbed an Oscar nom, allowing Netflix in the same circle as industry stalwarts like Disney and DreamWorks in yet another content genre.

Sarandos said animated films also tend to draw a wide audience across the global platform. “They do travel much more predictably than series do,” he said. He highlighted two titles set for release later this year –“The Willoughbys” and “Over the Moon,” from “Little Mermaid” toonsmith Glen Keane — as being “big-scale feature films competitive with anything you’d see at the box office.”

The interview included a lengthy discussion of Netflix’s strategy of delivering a huge volume of content in markets around the world in order to provide something for everyone. Netflix brass put a positive spin on the loss of “Friends” streaming rights as of Jan. 1, a sign of the heightened streaming-wars battle to come this year as WarnerMedia snatched the Netflix workhorse back as a pillar of the HBO Max service scheduled to bow in May.

The loss of “Friends” is an opportunity to encourage Netflix members to search the vault for more exclusive shows. Sarandos and Hastings noted that Netflix has weathered the loss of sticky content in the past such as when it parted ways with Starz and dropped a raft of movies including Disney titles, and when Nickelodeon abruptly yanked some of its biggest titles back after cashing licensing checks for a few years.

“Typically what happens is our members are able to find their next favorite show. That will happen with ‘Friends’ fans,” Sarandos said. “Some will find it elsewhere and some will find their next favorite show.”

(Pictured: “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman”)

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein (C) arrives to New

    Harvey Weinstein Jury Note Stirs Frenzied Speculation on Verdict

    A note from the jury in the Harvey Weinstein trial on Friday afternoon set the media and legal worlds abuzz with speculation about the verdict. The note suggested that the jurors were deadlocked on the two most serious charges — predatory sexual assault — but had reached a unanimous consensus on three other counts, of [...]

  • Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior

    Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior VP of A&R

    In what may be the first signal of the next era of Def Jam Recordings, Naim McNair has been named senior VP of A&R at the company. The move comes just hours after it was confirmed that Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of the label since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the [...]

  • Paul Rosenberg

    Paul Rosenberg Stepping Down as Head of Def Jam

    UPDATED: Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the company, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety. Jeff Harleston, general counsel for Def Jam parent company Universal Music Group, will serve as interim chief until a new CEO is appointed; he will [...]

  • Baby Yoda - The Child Animatronic

    Hasbro's Adorable Baby Yoda Animatronic Toy Is Already Sold Out on Disney's Online Store

    The Force remains strong for toys based on Baby Yoda, the breakout star of Disney Plus original series “The Mandalorian.” Less than a day after becoming available for pre-order, Hasbro’s new $59.99 Baby Yoda animatronic toy is no longer available on Disney’s official online store: As of Friday morning, Shop Disney listed it as “sold [...]

  • BTS Leads Spotify’s New Music Friday

    BTS Leads Spotify’s New Music Friday Playlist Rebrand

    Spotify has launched a global rebrand of its popular New Music Friday playlist, which this week features BTS, The Weeknd, Noah Cyrus, Trippie Redd, Kenny Chesney, Rei Ami and others. The revamped playlist, which has 43 versions worldwide, has more than 3.5 million followers in the US and eight million globally. New elements include a [...]

  • Donna Rotunno Gloria Allred

    Donna Rotunno Complains to Judge About Gloria Allred Attacking Her in the Media

    Harvey Weinstein’s lead attorney Donna Rotunno asked the judge to silence Gloria Allred, the high-powered attorney who is representing three women who’ve testified in the New York rape trial. Before the jury entered the courtroom on Friday morning, the fourth day of deliberations, Rotunno made a complaint on the record to the judge regarding Allred’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content