Ted Sarandos Walks Back Earlier Criticism of the Movie Business

/ Nov 4, 2013

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Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos did some backpedaling this week during the Bloomberg and Tribeca Film Festival Business of Entertainment breakfast. Only a week after advocating the streaming site’s desire to release films the same day as their theatrical debut, the man seems to have had a change of heart.

“I wasn’t calling for day and date with Netflix,” Sarandos explained during his keynote. “I was calling to move all the windows up to get closer to what the consumer wants.” The Netflix exec had to clarify after making a series of controversial statements about modern film distribution. During the Film Independent Forum in October, Sarandos explained that theater owners “strangle” distribution and innovation, he added: “Not only are they going to kill theaters — they might kill movies.”

More to the point of day and date releases, Sarandos expressed a hypothetical desire to release films on Netflix in tandem with theatrical releases. “Why not follow with the consumer’s desire to watch things when they want, instead of spending tens of millions of dollars to advertise to people who may not live near a theater, and then make them wait for four or five months before they can even see it?” Sarandos explained.

Now, it seems Sarandos has cooled a bit and has rethought his previous comments. At the Bloomberg event, Sarandos made it clear (several times) that he was not demanding day and date. “It should be noted that I love going to the movies and the theater, and I wasn’t calling for a day-and-date video on demand,” he said.

Although Sarandos is attempting to get back in with theater owners, the CCO still feels that film distribution reform is in order. However, he added that the process would be complicated and could not scale across all types of films. Sarandos specifically cited the film “Gravity,” saying that it would not be the same without a 3D viewing experience.

For all of his steps back, Sarandos stood firm by the idea of moving release windows up. Of course, this would mean a much smaller period of time for actual theater owners to capitalize on late moviegoers. Sarandos did not discuss the “windows” idea any further during his keynote.

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