Netflix's Ted Sarandos Challenges "Too Much TV" Thinking

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Ted Sarandos

"There's no such thing as 'too much TV,' unless we're all spending more and not watching more. That's not the case."

FX Networks president John Landgraf's recent declaration that the industry is at a point of "too much TV" has been discussed, almost exhaustively, since he first emphasized the point with critics back in August. This notion of peak TV popped up again during Thursday's Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon — though none of the panelists seemed inclined to agree with it.

"I take some objection to what John Landgraf said about there being 'Too much TV,'" said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. "There's no such thing as 'too much TV,' unless we're all spending more and not watching more. That's not the case. The number of television [hours] we're watching is growing dramatically."

Flanked by ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee, Lionsgate TV Group's Sandra Stern, NBCU Cable's Frances Berwick and Showtime Networks' David Nevins, Sarandos was not alone in his thinking. "Addictive, serialized shows is what's driving the market right now," said Nevins. "The same dynamics happening here are happening all around the world."

Nevins pointed to the recent launch of Showtime's over-the-top service as personal proof that there is a yet-to-be-sated appetite for scripted television. "It's clearly going to be what drives our growth moving forward," he added. "It has become a major part of who we are very fast. We get some numbers every morning. We haven't disclosed any publicly yet, but it's clearly happening."

Sarandos, asked to defend his company's decision not to disclose ratings for the umpteenth time, turned the conversation to the struggles with Nielsen ratings for ad-supported TV. Saying next-day ratings have led to the demise of countless quality series over the past two decades, he suggested the only viable solution is a move to dynamic ad insertion — or, as is the case this year with HBO and Showtime, a pay over-the-top service. "Dynamic ad insertion is absolutely where we want to go," said Lee.

Conversation kept veering back to the abundance of scripted programming out there, which ultimately turned to Nevins talking about Showtime's upcoming reboot of David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks — a project that has suffered no shortage of drama or delays.

"We've had to hire security up in Washington," said Nevins, who admitted that secrecy has become even harder to maintain. The network chief also laughed at the delays when talking about 2016 premieres, only saying that it would be premiering somewhere down the line.

Wrapping up the afternoon, Sarandos addressed his comments from Wednesday's earnings call — which prompted headlines about the streamer's interest in launching news programming. Sarandos insisted that his comments were taken out of context and there's no current push into daily news or producing any Vice-like programming.