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Sarandos: Trad TV Complains, But ‘No One Is Doing the Real Work’ of Fixing Ad Experience

Netflix chief creative officer Ted Sarandos once again defended the company not divulging viewing stats, but he lobbed a grenade at his ad-supported TV colleagues during the Hollywood Radio & Television Society’s “State of the Industry” luncheon Thursday.

“I wonder why the TV industry curses us for not releasing ratings and Nielsen not being accurate when no one’s doing the real work of dynamic ad insertion,” he said. “What’s undermining the monetization of television is the lack of a high-quality dynamic ad insertion where people are watching TV.”

ABC Entertainment chief Paul Lee agreed that improving the effectiveness of ads is a central goal, but parried, “Clearly, ad-supported television has created some compelling television for decades,” citing American Crime as a recent ABC example. Frances Berwick, lifestyle networks president at NBCUniversal Cable, noted that viewer habit has changed drastically but the mechanisms of the industry would catch up. “A much longer tail of people are watching these shows,” she said. “That’s the paradigm shift that we’re all uncomfortable with because we’re not getting paid for a lot of that viewing. But that will change.”

The panelists, who also included David Nevins, president of Showtime and Sandra Stern, president of Lionsgate Television Group, found common ground in dismissing the notion of “peak TV” that FX Networks chief John Landgraf advanced in August. “There is no such thing as too much TV,” Sarandos said. “It’s extremely old lens to look at TV through.”

Nevins said he was amazed by how quickly Showtime’s OTT offering has been rolled out. He declined to offer any specific numbers, but said “It’s clearly working.” He also stopped short of specifying a premiere date for Twin Peaks, which has had a stop-and-start reboot. But he touted it as “the original social media show” and added, “We’ve had to hire security up in Washington and change a lot of our procedures because things are leaking” about the production.