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Netflix: We will “absolutely be in negotiations” for The Office rights

Netflix’s VP of acquisitions Amy Reinhard (pictured, below) has told TBI that when NBCUniversal’s deal for The Office expires in 2021, the global SVOD will come to the negotiating table for the comedy.

Reinhard’s comments come just a week after NBC revealed it would be launching its own streaming platform, prompting questions as to whether the business will hang on to top shows such as The Office and The Good Place, both of which are available via Netflix.

“We’re looking to have all the great content so, to the extent that whatever NBC decides to do with that product, we would absolutely be in those negotiations,” said the exec. “It will fall where it falls.”

Reinhard, a former Paramount Pictures exec who joined Netflix in November 2016, was speaking at a NATPE Miami session on international content acquisition, where she joined Amazon Prime Video VP of worldwide TV content acquisition Brad Beale; Wheelhouse Entertainment president and former A+E Networks exec Sean Cohan; CBS Global Distribution Group president Armando Nuñez; and Banijay Group SVP of format acquisitions Carlotta Rossi Spencer on stage.

Explaining that she was “bound by contractual restrictions”, the exec could not be drawn on the platform’s headline-grabbing $100m deal with WarnerMedia for Friends – an important talking point at the three-day conference, where analysts and execs have been parsing the short-term and long-term reverberations of such deal-making.

In the session, which was moderated by former Sony boss and QYou exec Andy Kaplan, the global SVOD reps addressed how they are positioning their platforms against the onslaught of SVODs planned for launch later this year and into 2020.

Noting that Amazon has been “thinking about this for a long time”, Beale said that “ultimately, you want to control the most important assets you need to be successful, and so [we have been] shifting our mix to original content that we develop and produce.”

However, he cautioned that the process has taken “a very long time” and “has not been easy to do”.

“You’ve seen us produce more shows and mix more of our budget towards originals, for all the right reasons. When we do that, we get global rights and creative control. We get to brand it.”

We will increase the capability of our product in terms of the localisation, and [subtitling] and dubbing. We’ll continue to see incremental changes there that will help with penetration of product.

Beale added that Amazon is “well set-up in whatever this world evolves to” but noted that the platform will continue licensing from “a lot of people”.

“There’s not a major studio or network we don’t license content from, so if something is off the table we feel pretty good that we are going to be okay. Our north star is making sure we have awesome content for our customers, whether we produce it or license it.”

Reinhard then indicated she was a “plus one” on Beale’s comments, adding that Netflix is “very encouraged by the performance we’ve seen with our series and films.”

“We feel we’re on the right path to creating great content that can hopefully replace [shows that are pulled off the platform],” she said.

Netflix’s acquisitions are divided into a number of teams: one group handles film and TV acquisitions from major studios, while other groups are more localised, focusing on “global local-language” acquisitions out of regions including EMEA and LatAm, as well as India.

“I would say local-language buying is one of the major things we’re working on these days, in terms of buying content such as La Casa de Papel or Babylon Berlin and seeing how that travels around the world,” said Reinhard.

“The conclusion is that with really great content, it doesn’t matter what language it’s done in as long as it’s done well. We see this great ability for that content to travel.”

Beale, meanwhile, stressed that Amazon takes a more hyper-local strategy, noting that the SVOD’s focus
is making shows for customers in certain markets”.

“If [a show] happens to play well outside the region, that’s good. But we make certain shows for specific audiences.”

Two-year plans

Asked by Kaplan how they see their platforms evolving in the next two years, Reinhard said things “won’t change that much” except for Netflix becoming more “educated and informed” about the mix between local and global content.

“We will increase the capability of our product in terms of the localisation, and [subtitling] and dubbing. We’ll continue to see incremental changes there that will help with penetration of product.”

Netflix’s “buying decisions” will also advance in territories such as India, said Reinhard, where the platform will carefully evaluate decisions around content spend.

We don’t need someone else to fail for us to succeed. We will keep running our playbook.

“When we’re in a market like India and see great success with local films, should we be pouring more money into local films at the expense of whatever content type may not perform as well in that Indian market? [We will have to] do that same sort of calculation in every territory that we’re in.

“It’s constantly making that analysis and trade-off between where we will get that marginal benefit of the next dollar that we’re going to [invest].”

Meanwhile, Amazon’s Beale predicted that despite market disruption, it is “not a winner-take-all game” and there is “room for multiple winners in SVOD specifically and the content business generally”.

“We don’t need someone else to fail for us to succeed,” he said. “We will keep running our playbook. It seems to be working for us so far. You’re going to see more awesome original TV from us. We will continue to license movies, TV and library.”

The major development for Amazon will be investment in different locales, Beale pointed out. “If you want to know where Amazon is going to invest, just look at where we have retail and Prime.

“In most locales with retail Prime, our job [at Prime Video] is to make Prime better, because when we get more Prime business, that drives retail and we have this awesome cycle that happens. As we expand retail and Prime around the word, I expect we will do more in other countries and invest more as we see success.”

Beale also highlighted that the business will expand other content models, such as Amazon Channels and its recently launched ad-supported (AVOD) offering Freedive, which counts Endemol as one of its first content partners.