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Ted Sarandos Decries 'Antiquated' Theatrical Window

14 Oct, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos

Keynote speaker at MIPCOM in Cannes, Netflix CCO says consumers should have a choice in how they watch movies from Day 1

There’s a reason Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos was the keynote Oct. 14 at MIPCOM in Cannes, France. The outspoken executive has made waves in recent years criticizing movie theater chains for strangling innovation and consumer choice through a byzantine release window that stretches more than three months.

When Netflix announced it was partnering with The Weinstein Co. to produce and distribute a follow-up to Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), little did anyone know Sarandos was the green monster.

That’s because Sarandos took the occasion to announce Netflix would stream Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend to subscribers day-and-date with its screening on select Imax theaters. Two days later, Netflix announced a four-picture feature film production deal with Adam Sandler, who would also star in the titles to be released on SVOD simultaneously with any theatrical launch.

Theater chains reacted with a fury, saying they would not screen The Green Legend upon its release in 2015 — a boycott extended to hundreds of Imax screens they operate as well. The embargo also extends to any film streamed day-and-date with theatrical.

Speaking at MIPCOM, Sarandos said that as a company with a business model predicated on giving people on-demand viewing choices, it only made sense Netflix would attempt to upend the status quo by modernizing what he characterized is an “antiquated” theatrical window.

“The current distribution model for movies in the U.S. particularly, but also around the world, is pretty antiquated relative to the on-demand generation that we are trying to serve,” Sarandos said, as reported by Advanced-Television.com. "The current model we have has been the same almost since the beginning of movies on television in the early '70s. The world has moved on from then.”

Netflix, which launched the subscription streaming business model in 2008 with a branded media player manufactured by Roku, has upended the TV business by offering all episodes of a series simultaneously, and in the process created a social habit known as binge viewing in which viewers watch two or more episodes of a show in succession.

Sarandos told MIPCOM that strategy would soon be adopted by broadcast and cable networks.

“Releasing one episode at a time will increasingly be a thing of the past,” Sarandos said. “I think releasing a full season will soon become a common thing. Even as early as next year.”

The executive also said recent launches in Germany and France are comparable to other Netflix international expansion, with original programing “Orange Is the New Black” being the most-watched program in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and Luxembourg. Per policy, Netflix does not disclose actual viewership tallies, except to say 70% is TV programing and 30% is movies. It has also not revealed subscriber pickups in the six countries just launched.

“Orange” is also the most-watched Netflix original programing in the United States, ahead of the much-hyped “House of Cards.”

Netflix reports third-quarter financial results Oct. 15.

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