Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos has said its content pipeline should remain unaffected “over the next few months” and has revealed how the world’s biggest streamer is dealing with Coronavirus – including introducing virtual reading rooms.
Sarandos said that because the streamer worked “pretty far ahead” on series and normally drops all episodes at once, it would be able to sustain its service for several months – despite recently stopping production on all its shows. However, he admitted that the pandemic could affect operations towards the third and fourth quarters.
“We don’t see any disruption in our output over the next few months,” he told CNN’s Reliable Sources. “Maybe later in the year, if this progresses for longer, you’ll start feeling some of that as the physical production is not operating.”
The Netflix boss said the pandemic had been “a massive disruption”, pointing to the fact that all its productions had been suspended. “I believe that’s unprecedented in history, and we have a lot of folks who have found themselves suddenly and without notice to be out of work.”
$100m fund ‘for the hard times’
For the latter, Netflix has launched a $100m relief fund for production, which will be made available to workers globally who are largely paid daily or hourly rates.
Around $15m of the fund will be provided to organisations supporting out of work crew, with donations made to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 Disaster Fund and the Motion Picture & Television Fund, among numerous others.
Revealing the fund last week, Sarandos said: “This community has supported Netflix through the good times, and we want to help them through these hard times, especially while governments are still figuring out what economic support they will provide.
“We’re in the process of working out exactly what this means, production by production. This is in addition to the two weeks’ pay we’ve already committed to the crew and cast on productions we were forced to suspend last week.”
Virtual reading rooms & rising ratings
While the Netflix pipeline remains largely in place for the coming months, Sarandos said the company’s focus was on ensuring its staff and their families were safe.
However the streamer has also worked out ways to “to keep productivity up”, with “virtual reading rooms” being introduced on some shows.
“One of our shows, Big Mouth, the other day, did their first virtual table read,” he said. “We had 40 actors and writers with Netflix executives doing a table read of a new episode. People are being quite adaptive on getting geared up for a time when we do get back to work.”
The streamer has also seen consumption of its content rise, reflecting similar experiences from companies such as Viaplay in the Nordics.
“As you can imagine, all viewing is up. It’s up on Netflix, on CNN and on television in general. The system has been very robust and can help out a lot of people. People are certainly watching a lot more Netflix.”