Much of the positive buzz Netflix has generated lately has to do with their original programming, which falls more into the TV side of the entertainment business. House of Cards was positively received, while the reviews were a bit more mixed for Hemlock Grove. And this Sunday, Arrested Development will return for its long-awaited/hoped-for fourth season, thanks to Netflix's delve into original programming and their willingness to back the series' revival. The subscription-based service's interest in original programming causes many to wonder if it's just a matter of time before Netflix begins making movies.
From what Netflix's Ted Sarandos told THR in a recent interview, on the feature side, it actually sounds like the service is content to focus on distribution.
There are some parts of it that are really appealing in that you tend to get a lot of the same fundamental benefits of original programming -- star power, excitement, event content -- on a smaller budget. And if you get proportionally the same amount of watching, that’s a good thing. The reason why I've shied away from original movies has been that there are so many more great movies that get made than ever get distributed, and I think we function better as a distributor for movies than we do as a creator or marketer of movies for now. But I probably would have said the same thing about TV shows three years ago.
It's true that Netflix has become somewhat of a hub for smaller films that might never have reached a significant audience if not for finding their way onto the service's substantial menu. That's one of the great things about Netflix. In some ways, the service is like that little local video store in your town that carried movies most people haven't heard of - let alone, have seen - and the recommendations feature is that movie-loving guy behind the counter who assures you that you must watch this movie. Sometimes he's right and sometimes he's way off. But the opportunity for something different and maybe a little bit rare is always there, for better or worse. And Netflix is open 24/7.
So, "for now," it doesn't sound like there any plans in the works to develop original movies, but Sarandos did indicate that he could change his mind on that down the line.
In addition to lesser known films, Netflix also distributes movies from big studios, but like cable networks, their deals will eventually expire. The service made headlines earlier this month over several studios' licensing agreements anticipated expiration and how it would affect more than a thousand titles' availability on Netflix. THR asked Netflix's Cindy Holland about that, and she equates it to the deals networks have with studios.
We’re programming our service, and just like any other network, there are movies and series that come and go and we have an enormous amount of content. It’s not like when HBO's window on a series of films expires the world ends.
I suppose it seems like a bigger deal for Netflix when we look at the quantity of TV shows and movies that the service carries and how many of them are pulled when their deals expire. The inclination to panic, or at the very least, overreact, may stem from the concern that Netflix won't be able to remain current and reliable in the content they provide subscribers, though they've continued to do so. These days, exclusivity also seems to be a priority, and that may be factoring into the deals the service is trying to make with studios, which also likely applies to services like Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Sarandos and Holland had some interesting things to say on the subject of Netflix's original programming as well. Read the full interview here.