Cable exec: “Netflix is our frenemy”

Appearing Wednesday morning at the Cable Show in Boston in front of those denizens his company has apparently transgressed — and also, somehow concurrently helped — Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos conceded his streaming service’s duality within the pay TV business.
Truth be told, Sarandos (pictured left with his better angels and worser devils) told a morning panel that also featured Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and News Corp. deputy chairman Chase Carey, and which was moderated by CNN personality Piers Morgan, Netflix’s impact on the multichannel business is far from “black and white.”
“We’re additive to certain programs,” he told the audience, that included entertainment trades Deadline Hollywood and the Hollywood Reporter. “We’re additive to certain programs. Whether we are cannibalistic or not to other programs, I don’t know. We have billions of hours of viewing, so we are going to take away from something.”
Patrick Esser, president of the No. 5 pay TV service in the U.S., Cox Communications, summed up Netflix’s role as a teenager might break down a dichotomous classmate: the company is simply a “frenemy” to the pay TV industry.
Moderator Morgan brought up a recent hot media-on-media story, which has tied double-digit ratings losses for Viacom-owned kids channel Nickelodeon to tikes choosing to stream shows like Dora the Explorer on Netflix.
Sarandos denied a direct connection between his company’s streaming deal and ratings drops on Nick.
“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,” he explained.
The flip side of that story is that AMC’s popular adult dramas, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, have reportedly received ratings help from the streaming service, with new viewers turned on by watching legacy seasons of these shows on Netflix.
Perhaps belying his earlier deflection regarding Nick, Sarandos definitely sees a connection on that positive interaction.
“In the gap between season four and season five, we brought maybe 1 million new viewers to AMC,” he boasted. “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.”
Netflix’s positive impact on the broadband business was also brought up.
Esser noted that in March, about 40 percent of Cox’s nearly 4.8 million subscribers were streaming Netflix — a boost to the cable company’s high-speed internet services.