Ted Sarandos, the man responsible for the streaming giant’s game-changing content strategy is being presented with the Variety Vanguard Award, and also takes part in a keynote interview with Variety business editor Cynthia Littleton as part of the 2020 MIPCOM Week.
Explaining Variety’s selection, group publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns said: “No company has done more to expand the scope of the content business around the world than Netflix. Under Ted Sarandos’ leadership, Netflix has been a leader in reshaping the content marketplace for the 21st century.”
Sarandos joined the SVOD platform in 1999 and has been a key architect of its global growth. When he was named co-CEO earlier this year, Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said “Ted drove the revolution in our content strategy, which was way ahead of its time and has been key to our success. It was typical of his ability to see where the industry — and consumer tastes — are headed.”
Sarandos acknowledges having been a skeptic when Hastings first invited him to join the Netflix adventure at the end of the 1990s. But having taken the plunge, he has catalysed a fundamental transformation in TV creativity and distribution. On his watch, Netflix has delivered iconic originals including Orange Is The New Black and Stranger Things, while also upending the TV rights business.
In addition, the platform has led the way when it comes to introducing new voices to TV — championing both diverse creatives and local-language production. “I’ve been tremendously fortunate in the teams we’ve built at Netflix,” Sarandos says. “We’ve reinvented ourselves again and again: from DVD to streaming, from licensing to originals, from series to film and from US to local language stories told by creators all around the world.”
Sarandos’ rise from video-store manager to controller of a $17bn a year content budget is one of the most remarkable personal transformation stories in TV. He puts that down to both being a fan of great entertainment and the influence of his family. Aside from Hastings, he says, “the other early technology adopter in my life was my mother. Our family generally struggled, but even if the phone or gas were cut off, she always insisted on having cable TV and a little dish to get HBO.”
Past recipients of the Vanguard Award include former HBO chairman-CEO Richard Plepler and RuPaul’s Drag Race creator/executive producer RuPaul Charles.
Ted Sarandos’ keynote interview is available until November 17 on MIPCOM Online+