Netflix Executive Says Theater Owners Resistant to Innovation

During a keynote at the ninth annual Film Independent Forum over the weekend, Netflix executive Ted Sarandos told attendees the video streaming giant might begin releasing its own movies. During the 40-minute speech at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles, the chief content officer attributed the move to the fact that theater owners are resistant to let movies bow day-and-date on Netflix, and that they are not supportive of innovation.

“Theater owners stifle this kind of innovation at every turn,” Sarandos said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The reason why we may enter this space and try to release some big movies ourselves this way is because I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies.”

Sarandos also criticized the outdated theatrical release model, saying that movies have become “cold spectacles” of mass marketing campaigns, and noted that most high-budget films are still released in almost the same way they were years ago. Sarandos believes these factors are part of the reason TV has become so much more important in today’s culture, and why piracy is rampant.

The speech covered a few of Netflix’s own triumphs, highlighting what Sarandos seems to think the company is doing right in contrast with theater owners. He noted that only a couple of years ago, when the company split its services between DVDs and online streaming, it “went from being a media darling to a media punching bag,” he said, and that Netflix “looked pretty bleak” from the outside.

Now, he says, the service surpassed 40 million subscribers this summer and was watched for more hours than any cable TV network. In February, its original series “House of Cards” launched, and has since won an Emmy. It was the first show in history to win a primetime Emmy without ever airing on TV.

Sarandos told audience members that if Netflix had treated its DVD business with the same “protectionist reverence” as other digital sales groups had gone, they wouldn’t have had the same success, and the concept applies to the film industry, where change seems to be slower.

“TV is where the audience is,” Sarandos said. “It’s where the innovation is happening.”

A 43-minute video of the full presentation is available on the THR post.