Ted Sarandos Says Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes "Don't Care" About Netflix Viewership Numbers

Ted Sarandos - Getty - H 2018
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"There's great comfort that comes from not having this arbitrary apples-to-oranges measurement against other things on television," said Netflix's content chief.

Ted Sarandos on Monday said TV mega-producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes aren't concerned with the size of their Netflix streaming audiences.

"They don't care. They don't want to know. In fact, there's great comfort that comes from not having this arbitrary apples-to-oranges measurement against other things on television. If we're happy, they're happy," the Netflix content chief told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference on Monday during a session that was webcast.

Sarandos was asked about Murphy and Rhimes joining Jenji Kohan and shifting their production companies from a traditional studio to Netflix, and why he welcomed such overall output deals after initial skepticism. "They're incredibly prolific and they make a lot of great television and the things they make are incredibly popular," the exec told the investors conference.

Murphy, the producer behind American Horror Story and American Crime Story, left his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television for a mega-deal at Netflix. That followed the streaming giant landing Grey's Anatomy creator Rhimes and Orange Is the New Black's Kohan in a bid to have greater ownership of its content.

Ownership is becoming important in this so-called golden era of TV where creative talent like Murphy, Rhimes and Kohan, and their prolific output, has become a commodity increasingly bid up in price.

Without specifying which TV producers are next to jump to Netflix after their pacts with traditional studios expire, Sarandos confirmed the streamer is in talks with other prolific creators about additional overall output deals.

Netflix's film strategy was also in focus, especially as it impacted the Cannes Film Festival. "If we wanted to show our movies to the 600 people at the Cannes Film Festival, we had to agree not to show them to the millions of other people in France who use Netflix. So we obviously said we'd pass," Sarandos said of his company deciding against bringing any of its films to Cannes.

Since Netflix's titles don't play in French theaters and instead appear directly on the digital service, the Cannes festival rule effectively barred its movies from the event's competition lineup.

But while Sarandos said Netflix had not sought to disrupt the law in France as that country looks to defend its theatrical release window, he told investors the streaming giant remains focused on collapsing that window everywhere else, especially given one-third of viewing on the Netflix platform is spent with movies.

"We are 100 percent committed to collapsing windows outside France, because that's what consumers want," said the exec. He also was asked about the move by traditional media players to go direct-to-consumer. "I don't know what took them so long," Sarandos said of ESPN, the Disney-owned sports giant, making its first major digital play with a new streaming service, ESPN+.

The offering, one of two planned over-the-top products currently being developed within Disney, is ESPN's answer to the growing audience for streaming content and a declining base of subscribers to its linear television offerings.