Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos walked a tightrope this morning as he tried to assure cable execs at the industry’s annual convention that he’s their friend. It’s debatable; Cox Communications chief Pat Esser, who joined Sarandos on a panel at The Cable Show, referred to the streaming service as a “frenemy.” But the Netflix exec assured the audience that his service — which is so important to cable’s broadband customers — is no threat to their traditional TV business. That includes Nickelodeon, where ratings are down 30% so far in Q2 vs the same period last year – many believe because kids now can watch SpongeBox Squarepants and iCarly on Netflix. “People’s tastes are so diverse that no specific network and no specific show has such high viewing concentration that you’d see that kind of cause-and-effect on ratings,” Sarandos says.
Sarandos adds that Netflix can take credit for helping shows such as AMC’s Mad Men. “In the gap between Season 4 and Season 5 we brought maybe 1M new viewers to AMC. There were people who had four years to watch the show and didn’t. Because we gave them a good opportunity and a well-priced model (they were able) to catch up on the show.” The lesson, he says, is that “there’s an artful way to pick the right content in the right window in the right license fee that can be purely additive to cable.” He also says that cable doesn’t have to worry about Netflix’s acquisition of original programming — such as the upcoming drama House Of Cards — in some cases in competition with HBO, Showtime, and Starz. “The things we’re doing in originals are very centered around the one-hour serialized dramas that are very expensive to produce for networks and the best place they land is in the premium subscription space….We’re spending a little bit producing originals, but we’re spending a lot more licensing that content from the networks.”