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Netflix Exec: The Original Content Beat Goes On

Netflix continues to see positive results from its original movies and TV shows, with non-scripted content the latest type of programming it’s starting to see strength in this year, according to Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.

“This year has been a year of growth” in which Netflix has “been able to move into new content spaces that we’ve not been on the original side before, like unscripted” programs, he said Dec. 3 at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

Netflix has 20 original unscripted shows streaming this year, up from none last year, he noted, adding: “The viewing of unscripted programming has grown on the quality and breadth” of this year’s offerings, he said.

In original series overall, Netflix continues to “create new brands that are meaningful to consumers,” while new seasons of established original series continue to be successful, he said.

Sarandos also pointed to his company’s growing strength in international programs. “We’re going to be ramping up to 70 original local language shows next year and those shows have been remarkably relevant in the home country and have been able to get both pan-regional and, in many cases, global success that has changed the dynamic, in a way, for international television,” he said.

Explaining his company’s strategy for international programs, he said Netflix is “not trying to make more Hollywood content for the world — we’re trying to make content from anywhere in the world [for] the rest of the world.”

One example of such international content enjoying success is “Dark” from Germany, he said, adding the company was “really excited about where” its local language show strategy “can go and how much that can scale over the next couple of years.”

The company’s original movie strategy, meanwhile, “has found a new gear and is going gangbusters right now,” he said.

An original Netflix movie currently enjoying success with viewers and critics is Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” a Spanish language black-and-white period film, he pointed out. It’s been playing in select movie theaters for the past three weeks, he noted, adding: “When it premieres on Netflix, it’s going to be on more screens around the world day-and-date and I think it’ll be very successful for those theaters that book it,” he said, adding Netflix was “not trying to hurt theaters in any way.”

He was referring to the company’s ongoing initiative in which it makes original movies available simultaneously in theaters and on Netflix.com for streaming.

He estimates that “probably 80 percent of the people in the theaters” watching that film are “Netflix subscribers that just wanted to go out” for the night and “they wanted to pick the best movie and we just happen to have the best movie, even though they could have watched it at home…. Some people will do that. But the vast majority don’t live anywhere near that theater and don’t have that choice.”

Another Netflix movie that has recently seen success, meanwhile, has been “The Christmas Chronicles” starring Kurt Russell, he said, noting there were more than 20 million views of that movie in its first week available for streaming. If all of those views had been movie ticket purchases, it would have translated to a $200 million opening week, he said, adding: “Even movies that go on to do a billion dollars don’t typically do that in the first week.”

Asked if Netflix plans to enter the sports arena, he said: “If it becomes the next best place to spend $10 billion, I would look at it. I just think, relative to the business today and how we’re growing around the world, professional scripted and unscripted programming is the best place to spend that money.” But he admitted: “At some point, that may not be the answer.”

One major factor is that “on-demand adds almost no value” to sports, which most viewers want to watch live, he pointed out.