Netflix’s originals supremo has lifted the veil on how the SVoD giant makes commissioning decisions, including the “projection models” that dictate its tariffs and inform its decisions to scrap shows.
Vice-president of original programming Cindy Holland told Netflix’s upfront event in Italy, See What’s Next, that she commissions within strict parameters, despite having access to a content war chest of $8bn (£5.7bn) for this year.
“I have turned down some ideas because of budget,” she said.
Holland explained that Netflix uses its wealth of data to predict the viewing potential of an original idea, and sets producers’ budgets accordingly.
“We think about sizing up projects or whether we can afford the proposed budgets through a series of projection models,” said Holland.
“We assess attributes around the series, including who is involved with it and what genre it is. We can predict a minimum audience threshold and from that we can assess what type of budget we can support.”
Programme cancellations are based on similar methodology, with sci-fi series Sense8 scrapped after two series after falling short of required audience targets.
“It goes back to audience size and budget: if you don’t have the audience showing up to justify the expense, at some point you are going to want to end it,” Holland said.
The acknowledgement that Netflix does not have bottomless resources comes on the back of the business revealing its financial results last week.
The company is valued at $146bn (£105bn) and has a 125 million-strong subscriber base, but also has long-term debt obligations of $6.54bn (£4.7bn), and owes $3.4bn (£2.4bn) in long-term content payments.
Some commentators and analysts are keeping a close eye on the growing debt pile, but the company has told shareholders this is “quite modest” when paired with its growing enterprise value. Netflix recently announced it is raising a further $1.9bn (£1.4bn) for acquisitions and original programming.
The SVoD platform put considerable resource into the glitzy See What’s Next event in Rome, which featured huge displays promoting newly launched sci-fi drama Lost In Space and 2017 hit Glow, which is returning for a second series.
Call for pitches
Netflix took the opportunity to call for show pitches that have “authenticity, specificity and passion”, with Holland adding that the idea should be one “the storyteller is dying to tell”.
“If you are a creator who has something that checks all those boxes, then you should get in touch. We can discuss the best format for your show together – whether it is a documentary, a series or a film,” she added.
Netflix’s slate of 10 new European originals includes Julian Fellowes’ The English Game, a six-part football drama made by Watership Down producer 42, and male nanny comedy Turn Up Charlie starring Idris Elba, from Brown Eyed Boy and Green Door Pictures.
This article was first published on Screen’s sister site Broadcast.