When it comes to Netflix’s exploding catalog of original content, there are a lot of factors executives consider when choosing a new show.
But there’s one factor that surprisingly doesn’t impact the company’s thinking: screen size.
We caught up with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and chief content officer Ted Sarandos this week in Marseille, where they had come for the premiere of their new show named after France’s second-largest city. This is the company’s first French-language original show, and it is one of 30 shows Netflix currently has in some stage of production.
The company is producing shows all over the world now, said Sarandos, and it wants to develop a wider slate of local content that will also appeal to global audiences.
But in thinking about what shows might work, the company doesn’t really worry about where or how people are watching. Despite the growing traffic Netflix is getting from its mobile apps, for instance, it isn’t hunting for shorter content or asking producers to change their shows to suit specific viewing situations.
Instead, Sarandos said Netflix is happy to leave shorter formats to YouTube, and anyone else who has an ad-driven model.
“We’re not trying to adapt to the size of a screen,” he said.
Hastings and Sarandos noted that young people are more likely to be watching content on laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Younger consumers are less interested than their parents in big screen TVs. And they also seem perfectly fine watching “Lawrence of Arabia” on an iPhone, Sarandos noted.
Plus, many consumers watch across multiple screens, he and Hastings added. These viewers are more interested in the convenience of being able to pause on one screen and pick back up in the same place on another as they change location and device.
So what matters most? The two men emphasized that quality of storytelling is by far the most important, and is something that has transcended culture and language since they started producing shows three years ago.
“One of the surprising things is how these shows run across countries,” Sarandos said. “‘Making a Murderer’ couldn’t be more American. But it’s traveled around the word in an incredible way.”
Hastings added: “We have 80 million viewers, and they are very interested in the Internet and very open to new ideas. But it’s been really interesting to see how similar the taste is for good storytelling.”
The result is that regardless of screen size or age or language, people are perfectly willing to invest hours watching a program if they are hooked by the story, they said.
Of course, Netflix is hoping that “Marseille” will be that next breakout hit to transcend borders. The show debuts on May 5 and will be instantly available around the world.