Netflix Content Chief Discusses Disney+, the Saudi Arabia Controversy, and Their Future

     November 14, 2019

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We all live in a post-Disney+ world, now. The House of Mouse unleashed their mammoth streaming service on November 12, and we’ve all been feeling the wake of the ability to watch any Star Wars, Marvel property, or underrated 1980s dark sci-fi epic The Black Hole any time we want. But what does this all mean for other streaming services? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos is not terribly worried about Disney+. He covered this and more in a talk given at the Paley Center for Media’s International Council Summit in New York City.

“For us, nothing really changes,” said Sarandos to interviewer Chris Redd (Saturday Night Live) when asked about Disney+. “They are great at what they do; they’re great storytellers. It is great to have competition.” A rare “three greats in a row”? A “triple great”? Dang, Sarandos is really hammering home the point that Disney+ is a welcome addition to the streaming game, and not a Netflix-killer as some might say — even as the two companies bicker over streaming rights to hits like Black Panther or Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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Image via Netflix

Sarandos did reveal how Netflix’s future will adapt based on the strategies of Disney+, the latter which boasts a large library of licensed, pre-existing content as part of its appeal. “There is a lot of viewing that comes from licensed content from other people, because there is a lot of it, and for a while it was all we had,” he said, alluding to Netflix’s reliance on bingeable favorites like Friends and The Office. Sarandos went on to say that Netflix’s future landscape will likely be all-original content as a response. I think this is a reasonable counter-strategy, not only to fight back against one of Disney+’s large appeal, but to ensure that the media marketplace has lots of new stuff to choose from, and not just, y’know, Star Wars or Marvel or underrated 1980s dark sci-fi epic The Black Hole.

Not everything was triple great for Sarandos’ talk, however. He did a touch of damage control in reaction to Netflix’s decision to pull an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from Saudi Arabia after that country’s government reached out to the network over its criticisms of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings originally dismissed any criticism of the move to suppress the episode, saying in a New York Times-sponsored event, “We’re not in the news business. We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power.’ We’re trying to entertain.” When asked about this brusque, borderline insensitive response, Sarandos said, “I don’t know if it was not a great choice of words or if he misspoke. I think all entertainment is truth to power, all creative expression is truth to power. I think what he was getting at is we are not really in the breaking news business. … We are an entertainment company primarily.”

Wanna do some Netflix/Disney+ comparison shopping yourself? Check out the best movies on Netflix versus the best movies on Disney+.

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