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Netflix: ownership key to SVoD victory

CONTENT CANADA: Netflix has built up a hefty US$12bn war chest this year as it battles to win the entertainment streaming wars, delegates here in Toronto heard.

Lisa Hamilton Daly at Content Canada

But that doesn’t mean the US-based streaming giant is throwing money around looking for the next Stranger Things or Orange is the New Black and instead aims to be a global platform.

Lisa Hamilton Daly, director of original series at Netflix, told Content Canada on Wednesday how Netflix is commissioning originals as rivals like Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast start to claw back hit library content like Friends and The Office.

“We’re pushing more towards ownership of our shows,” said Hamilton Daly. Her  responsibilities at Netflix mean getting involved in series development earlier than in the past.

She added that Netflix is looking, above all, for locally produced series and movies that can play around the world. “Thinking about a big story that can really appeal across borders is the most attractive thing for us right now,” Hamilton Daly told attendees.

Hamilton Daly joined Netflix in January 2018 to oversee the development and production of drama series like Spinning Out, Firefly Lane, Sweet Magnolias and Tiny Pretty Things.

She came to Netflix from A+E Networks’ Lifetime channel, developing movies, miniseries and backdoor pilots, including the eight-hour Flowers in the Attic wheel of movies.

The exec told Content Canada that Netflix remains a pure-play streamer, unlike rivals looking to draw consumers into a walled garden to buy other products.

“Our biggest goal is to produce the best TV shows and movies for our audiences all over the world. We’re not trying to sell devices and products and ads. And that’s our focus,” Hamilton Daly said in reference to rivals like Apple TV looking to sell iPhones for Apple and AT&T-owned WarnerMedia looking to its upcoming streaming service to hawk wifi to internet subscribers.

Hamilton Daly also told producers at Content Canada to get their heads out of the North American paradigm and think about creating and producing TV shows or movies that can play worldwide.

“Some of our most exciting shows have come from other countries,” she said, including Spanish-language shows from local creators that achieve a global reach via Netflix.

Hamilton Daly added series producers should not expect a lot of notes or interference from Netflix execs like herself. “It’s not that I’m a bad executive. I give notes. But it’s a quick process. We really just try to get going. We don’t put people through endless development,” she told attendees.

The hands-off approach to development also aims at ensuring innovation and variety in the final content product. “It’s about letting them [producers] tell their unique stories,” she said, arguing that a top-down approach during development just leads to content sameness.

“You don’t get that variety of perspectives we count on to travel the world [with our shows],” Hamilton Daly said. At the same time, Netflix in Canada is looking for local stories. “We want to ensure all parts of Canada feel represented on the platform,” she insisted.

Netflix also looks to go straight to series with new TV concepts, rather than order a pilot. The aim, Hamilton Daly, is to attract the best creative talent and allow them to express themselves in authentic and new ways.

“We are really trying to put forward the vision of the creator. It’s about finding those amazing talented people and giving them a voice,” Hamilton Daly said.

But be warned: don’t ring up Netflix with a pitch. It’s best to reach Hamilton Daly and others at the streaming giant via an agent or a more established producer to ensure all rights are protected on both sides, she said.

As Netflix looks to wean itself off third-party IP or content, the question of who holds the rights to originals has come to the fore.

Hamilton Daly said Netflix usually wants the IP assigned to the streaming giant, but much depends on the project and the producers. “Our deals are very flexible, in a number of ways,” she said.

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