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Netflix got a big audience bump over the past year, what with most of the world trapped in their homes. But Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos sees film and TV audiences returning to pre-pandemic form as lockdowns lift globally.
“Things will get to normal in how people watch (content),” Sarandos told the Banff World Media Festival during a virtual keynote address on Monday. Sarandos said Zoom and other video conference platforms had changed how people worked at home and viewed film and TV content online during COVID quarantines.
But post-pandemic, he predicted big movies will play well at the local multiplex. “I do think people will be very excited to get back to movie theaters. I’m excited to see that come back as well,” Sarandos argued.
“Big films will do very well in theaters, like they always have, but windows will likely be shorter as you’ve seen roll out,” Sarandos added about the post-COVID media landscape colored by industry consolidation and online audiences shifting to online platforms.
He insisted rising global demand for movies would lift all boats. “Sometimes [consumers] will go to the theater and sometimes they will watch the premieres in their homes,” Sarandos said.
At the same time, the Netflix boss said, the shift from traditional linear TV to more direct-to-consumer, on-demand viewing of content will continue and reshape the global media industry for decades to come. Sarandos also told the Banff festival that the Netflix audience for non-English-language content in the U.S. market spiked during the pandemic.
As Netflix has conquered the world with Hollywood entertainment, the video streaming giant has also seen a vast increase in audiences for local-language content during the pandemic. The domestic viewership for non-English local-language content jumped 50 percent since the beginning of 2021 on the video streaming platform, Sarandos reported.
And the U.S. audience for Korean content in the wake of the Oscar win for Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite has jumped 100 percent. “People during the pandemic had a lot more time on their hands and were more curious to see things and were denied the ability to travel, so they were more interested to see [content] from around the world,” Sarandos said.
Netflix, which has been active in the Canadian market for 10 years, has opened a corporate office in Toronto and is in the process of hiring a content executive to deal directly with local Canadian producers — a first. Sarandos’ Banff keynote coincided with news that cousins Stephen Amell and Robbie Amell have sold the sequel to their sci-fi thriller Code 8 to Netflix.
U.S. streaming platform dollars flowing to Canadian movies sits well with local producers, who can now see an alternative to traditional funders like Telefilm Canada and SODEC while seeing American digital platforms release their content worldwide.
In 2017, Netflix unveiled a deal with the federal government to set up a Canadian office and invest CAN$500 million (US$400 million) over five years in Canadian production, including original homegrown content.
Besides exceeding that production investment in Canada since then, Netflix has established permanent production hubs in Toronto and Vancouver, and struck co-production deals for homegrown TV dramas Anne With an E, Frontier, Travelers and Alias Grace.
Sarandos told the Banff festival audience that Netflix, in its drive for its own film and TV originals, has already spent over CAN$2.5 billion (US$2.06 billion) on productions in Canada destined for world export since 2017. Netflix’s Canadian expenditures includes local shoots for The Umbrella Academy, V-Wars, the horror series October Faction, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Another Life.
Sarandos also announced on Monday that Netflix Canada and Women in Animation Vancouver are teaming to expand the WIA Vancouver’s Animation Career EXCELerator Program. The goal of the ACE program is to advance women into key creative roles in animation, providing midlevel career professionals targeted and focused mentoring, support and training.
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