Once upon a time it was inconceivable that a company in Silicon Valley could make content that was any good; the running joke, shares Marc Andreessen, “was like, what are we gonna do — we’re gonna film a router instruction manual? It was just an absurd idea!” It was also inconceivable at one point (before downloading, let alone before streaming), that an internet company could really do video on the internet. “But Reed talked about it to me like he was telling me the sky is blue,” reflects Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, “and it stuck with me because nobody ever changed the world without telling someone they were gonna do it first, and I bet it sounded crazy.” Now, with over 117 million subscribers in 190 countries and investments over $7B in original content, Netflix is arguably catalyzing the most dramatic period of change in the television and video industry since the arrival of color TV (and maybe even before that).
But how did the company know where to go next, and when, and how? How did they make decisions about the risk/reward tradeoffs, whether it was purchasing a five-part (Marvel universe) franchise at once or betting not just on proven but as yet unknown talent (Stranger Things)? And how did Sarandos (and Netflix for that matter) get there, coming from the very edges of the entertainment industry? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more, including the business of creativity, changing company cultures, and even the changing culture of taste as content travels across both time and place. The conversation is based on a Q&A from our annual Summit events, which bring together large companies, finance investors, academics, and startups to talk all things innovation.