Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn't think there's enough great television, even with the staggering 400 scripted TV series slated for 2016. Appearing onstage with New York Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook conference today, Hastings said his company is constantly thinking about how to produce more unique programming not being served by traditional production companies. Two types include anime and Bollywood-style shows, he later said, though he clarified that the shows could be geared toward foreign markets.
Showtime CEO Matt Blank asked Hastings how production outfits will maintain a level of quality. The Netflix executive pointed to his company's more experimental efforts like Narcos — the crime drama about the rise of drug lord Pablo Escobar — as an example of finding success through trying new things. Now that the internet has solved some of the hardest problems of distribution, creators have to think about how to develop shows that can find audiences on a global scale, Hastings added.
"You go beyond the normal spectrum to get quality."
Netflix is only getting more aggressive about its original programming ambitions. Hastings said the company would spend $5 billion next year on content. That includes acquiring high-profile names like comic Aziz Ansari, whose new Netflix show Masters of None premieres Friday, and buying the rights to indie films like it did with Beasts of No Nation earlier this year. Hastings' position clashes with that of FX head John Landgraf, who said in August that too many television options could overwhelm us and risks creating a kind of indifference among viewers that could sink otherwise successful shows. Hastings disagrees. "We have a lot of choice, but if you do great content, you’ll find great viewers," he said.
When I look at our shows, we just had one come out this summer, Narcos, and it's a very different kind of show. It's an American company, Netflix, contracts with the oldest movie company in the world — a french company Gaumont — to make a production in Bogota, Columbia, featuring Brazilian actors and directed by a Brazilian — three quarters Spanish, one quarter English — and it's hugely popular in Germany.
You go beyond the normal spectrum to get quality and you really stretch to the things that you can do. On-demand and the internet really gives you that power. when you have incredible distribution, then you have to open the front end of the funnel to have incredible producers around the world.
We're hopeful that we'll over time make a great Bollywood show, make a great anime show. It might not be that that Bollywood show is for [Showtime CEO] Matt Blank. It might be that it's more segmented, but again the internet let's you do that. I think that's the key in that enablement. But as Matt knows, making these shows is very challenging and I'm sure we'll have issues over time.