Coronavirus: Netflix Watching on the Rise

Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos said that while the novel coronavirus has caused a “massive disruption” in production, he doesn’t see any problems in delivering Netflix content over the next few months.

“It’s been a massive disruption,” said the exec. “Every one of our productions around the world are shut down. 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.”

Sarandos explained that while Netflix is “figuring out ways to keep productivity up,” its main intent is to “make sure that people are taking care of their families and worrying about that first.”

He continued, “When we were forced to shut down those productions, the first thing we did is make sure that everybody on those sets, everybody on those crews knew that they were being paid for the next two weeks, as if they were there. We sent all of our employees at home. So, we have all of our employees at home, even in roles that are not necessarily conducive to doing that. So, we’re trying to keep things ‘business as usual’ as we can, in a time of great uncertainty for some people. We hope this brings them some economic comfort, if not emotional comfort.”

It remains unclear how the government plans to aid those workers hit hardest by coronavirus-related work stoppages, several institutions are pledging money to help those most affected in Hollywood including Netflix. Sarandos announced Friday that Netflix has set up a $100 million relief fund for out-of-work production professionals, including the surplus of crew and cast without jobs.

With the “Safer at Home” order requiring California residents to remain at home as a means of reducing the spread of the virus, an increase in streaming is all but assured. Sarandos told Stelter that “viewing is up” for Netflix, and added that TV ratings were rising as well.

“We’re proud to be part of that, which is trying to make that stay-home experience a little more bearable for folks, a little more enjoyable, even, and give some families something to gather around, something for people to talk about, making us feel a little less isolated while we are being physically isolated,” he said.

Sarandos said he doesn’t foresee “any disruption” in Netflix content for the next few months, though he warned that the content pipeline could wear thin later in the year if the shutdown drags on.

“We work pretty far ahead. You know, we deliver all of our shows with all episodes at once,” the exec explained. “So, we’re pretty far ahead. So we don’t see any disruption in our output over the next few months. You know, maybe later in the year, if this progresses long, you’ll start feeling some of that as the physical production is not operating.”

Sarandos describeed how “virtual reading rooms” have exemplified how their “creative process has been remarkably adaptive.”

“One of our shows, Big Mouth, the other day, did their first virtual table read. We had 40 actors and writers with Netflix executives doing a table read of a new episode. So, people are being quite adaptive on getting ready to — on getting geared up for a time when we do get back to work,” he said.