Netflix's Ted Sarandos on Obama Deal: "It's Not the Obama Network"

Ted Sarandos - 2018 Roxanne Roxanne New York Premiere - Getty - H 2018
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The streamer's chief content officer said the deal does not indicate an organizational lean to the left.

At an industry event Tuesday, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the network's production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama, announced last week, does not represent an organizational shift to the left.

Sarandos said the Obamas will be producing "entertainment," not news, programming as part of the multiyear deal.

"It's not The Obama Network, it's not the MSNBC shift," he said at the Paley Center for Media in New York. "There's no political slate to the programming."

But, Sarandos noted, "it's hard to argue there's not a left lean to the creative community."

He also spoke more broadly about why Netflix entered into the agreement. "I didn't want to see that deal go anywhere else, because I think they're going to be great at it," he said.

The executive said that nonscripted programming, including cooking and talk shows, is important to Netflix, but it doesn't yet rack up customers. "I think that there is a place to make very engaging, profitable unscripted content, but for us it doesn't drive a lot of subscriptions yet, so we've got to figure all that math out."

Sarandos also took a dig at the industry press for overemphasizing ratings as a measure of success. "The press, God love 'em, are a little lazy," he said.

He also defended the streamer's deal with actor Adam Sandler. "People love Adam Sandler," he said. "No matter what the media elite and critics were saying about his films, people loved them."