Netflix chief says Barbenheimer could have happened on Netflix

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Ted Sarandos claims that the huge success of last year’s Barbie and Oppenheimer could have been replicated on Netflix.

Netflix boss Ted Sarandos has sat down with The New York Times for a comprehensive interview and among other things, claimed that the huge audience numbers that drove last year’s Barbenheimer sensation could have happened on Netflix.


When asked whether those kinds of big tentpole sensations were simply outside of Netflix’s ‘wheelhouse’, Sarandos responded by stating that “both of those movies would be great for Netflix. They definitely would have enjoyed just as big an audience on Netflix, and so I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that certain kinds of movies do or don’t work.”

Whilst Sarandos’ answer holds some truth, there are of course some things that are left unsaid.

While from a pure numbers standpoint perhaps those films launching on Netflix could have picked up similar audience numbers (remember Zack Snyder’s incredible Netflix calculus?), there are other elements to the Barbenheimer sensation that aren’t so easily quantified. What about the cultural sensation caused by the twin release of the films? What about the revenue they earned?

Sarandos would go on to openly challenge that a theatrical release was in any way better for a film, stating that “there’s no reason to believe that the movie itself is better in any size of screen for all people. My son’s an editor. He is 28 years old, and he watched Lawrence Of Arabia on his phone.”

While we’re not quite sure exactly what that anecdotal aside is meant to prove, the Netflix boss is clearly ignoring key aspects of Barbenheimer’s success because they don’t work with the Netflix framework.

In a wide-ranging interview, Sarandos also talked about AI, saying that “I don’t believe that an AI program is going to write a better screenplay than a great writer, or is going to replace a great performance, or that we won’t be able to tell the difference. AI is not going to take your job. The person who uses AI well might take your job.”

It’s a typically positive take from a tech company that has stormed Hollywood and changed the face of the film industry.

Again though, there’s a level of disingenuousness here. The concern is that one person using AI might replace ten people’s jobs, perhaps 50 people’s jobs. Or even more, transforming a role that was performed by lots of human beings into a role that is performed almost solely by a computer. Naturally, Sarandos’ example doesn’t frame the scenario in that way, but once again, that’s his prerogative we suppose.

The Netflix chief also discusses Baby Reindeer, the demise of the company’s DVD mailing service and more in the piece which you can find here.

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