Ted Sarandos Says "Viewing Is Up" for Netflix Amid Coronavirus

The Netflix chief content officer on Sunday morning joined anchor Brian Stelter on CNN's 'Reliable Sources,' where he also discussed how the coronavirus has caused a "massive disruption" for production and why he doesn't "see any disruption" in the streaming service's output for the next few months.

Netflix's content chief Ted Sarandos on Sunday morning joined anchor Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources, where he said that while the novel coronavirus has caused a "massive disruption" for production, he doesn't see any issues in delivering Netflix content over the next few months. 

Stelter asked Sarandos how the pandemic has ultimately impacted companies such as Netflix and its rivals. 

"It's been a massive disruption," said the exec. "Every one of our productions around the world are shut down. I believe that's unprecedented in history. And we have a lot of folks who have found themselves suddenly and without notice to be out of work."

Sarandos went on to explain that while Netflix is "figuring out ways to keep productivity up," its main intent is to "make sure that people are taking care of their families and worrying about that first."

He continued, "When we were forced to shut down those productions, the first thing we did is make sure that everybody on those sets, everybody on those crews knew that they were being paid for the next two weeks, as if they were there. We sent all of our employees at home. So, we have all of our employees at home, even in roles that are not necessarily conducive to doing that. So, we're trying to keep things 'business as usual' as we can, in a time of great uncertainty for some people. We hope this brings them some economic comfort, if not emotional comfort."

While it remains unclear how the government plans to aid those workers hit hardest by coronavirus-related work stoppages, several institutions are pledging money to help those most affected in Hollywood including Netflix. Sarandos announced Friday that Netflix has set up a $100 million relief fund for out-of-work production professionals, including the surplus of crew and cast without jobs.

With the "Safer at Home" order requiring California residents to remain at home as a means of reducing the spread of the virus, an increase in streaming is all but assured. Sarandos told Stelter that "viewing is up" for Netflix, and added that TV ratings were rising as well.

"We're proud to be part of that, which is trying to make that stay-home experience a little more bearable for folks, a little more enjoyable, even, and give some families something to gather around, something for people to talk about, making us feel a little less isolated while we are being physically isolated," he said.

Sarandos also said he doesn't foresee "any disruption" in Netflix content for the next few months, though he warned that the content pipeline could wear thin later in the year if the shutdown drags on.

"We work pretty far ahead. You know, we deliver all of our shows with all episodes at once," the exec explained. "So, we're pretty far ahead. So we don't see any disruption in our output over the next few months. You know, maybe later in the year, if this progresses long, you'll start feeling some of that as the physical production is not operating."

Sarandos went on to describe how "virtual reading rooms" have exemplified how their "creative process has been remarkably adaptive." 

"One of our shows, Big Mouth, the other day, did their first virtual table read. We had 40 actors and writers with Netflix executives doing a table read of a new episode. So, people are being quite adaptive on getting ready to — on getting geared up for a time when we do get back to work," he told Stelter. 

As for the situation in Europe, Sarandos explained that Netflix and other video producers are working with European regulators to "tune down the bit rate to take some of the stress off of the internet" and "to make sure it's available for emergencies." Netflix said Thursday that it would reduce its streaming quality in Europe for the next month as the region deals with taxed networks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We obviously are complying with that and we're going to look to support that — those requests around the world if there need be ... keep in mind that the visual quality for the consumer will be barely noticeable at the rates that we're talking about in Europe," said the exec. 

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus, the entertainment industry continues to be in flux as a myriad of high-profile TV and film projects have ceased productionTalk shows — both late-night and daytime — have also been paused.

Meanwhile, following the closure of U.S. theaters, all of the majors studios have postponed their theatrical calendars, leaving recent releases to be sent to VOD and digital services weeks early, including Paramount's The Love Birds, which was acquired by Netflix. The comedy, starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, marks the first studio movie pulled from a theatrical release to be placed at a non-studio streaming service. (Valence Media, the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, also owns MRC, which produced The Lovebirds.)