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Ted Sarandos Lauds Early 'Interview' Digital Release

7 Jan, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix chief content officer hints controversial comedy could be coming to subscription streaming service

Ted Sarandos hailed Sony Pictures’ decision to release The Interview the night before its abridged nationwide Christmas Day theatrical debut on 280 independent screens.

During a Jan. 7 Q&A at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour 2015 in Pasadena, Calif., Netflix’s chief content officer at first refused to address the question whether the ‘R’-rated comedy about an interview-turned-assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jung-un would appear on the SVOD service.

Later, Sarandos hinted he would like to see Netflix subs given the opportunity to stream The Interview, which has been at the center of a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures and carried out by a group allegedly aligned with North Korea and calling itself Guardians of Peace.

“People want to see the movie and we want to be able to deliver the movie,” Sarandos said, as reported by Deadline.com.

The CCO, of course, has long championed eliminating the current three-month theatrical window on movies and, instead, offering titles digitally and at retail day-and-date with theaters.

With The Interview generating a record $31 million in digital revenue (rental and retail) for Sony since Dec. 24, Sarandos contends studios could emulate that success with other movies.

“I hope it’s eye-opening for the industry,” he said.

Indeed, Netflix plans to do just that Aug. 28 when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, the follow-up to 2000 Oscar winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is released simultaneously on the streaming service and select Imax screens.

Netflix is co-producing Green Legend with The Weinstein Co.

Sarandos’ desire to rejigger theatrical release windows does not sit well with major theater owners, all of whom have pledged to boycott Green Legend, including Imax screens under their purview.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends studios won't embrace the concept of day-and-date launches.

He said The Interview was a unique situation in which Sony’s distribution options were limited after four of the nation’s largest theater operators refused to screen the movie.

“They are highly unlikely to tinker with the window other than to shorten it. The studios need theatrical exhibition to drive buzz, and they won’t screw up their relationship in order to earn modestly more with day-date distribution,” Pachter said.

The analyst believes studios will shrink the theatrical window to 10 weeks.

Separately, consulting firm Deloitte issued a report downplaying Netflix’s impact on the current pay-TV ecosystem.

Deloitte said subscription streaming services will generate about $7.5 billion in revenue globally in 2015 — about 3% of the $254 billion pay-TV market, which excludes advertising and license fees.

“The rise of Netflix doesn’t mean the demise of pay-TV,” Paul Lee, director of technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte, said in a statement. “The impact of Netflix has been greatly exaggerated.”

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