During yesterday’s earnings call, Netflix seemingly shot down a recent report that had claimed the streaming service was planning to make its move into the news business via a weekly TV show. In March, MarketWatch had reported Netflix was eyeing the news business, and was planning a news magazine show that would rival CBS’s “60 Minutes” or ABC’s “20/20.”
The source for the report was an unnamed TV exec who had previously worked with Netflix on a documentary series. Netflix had declined to comment at the time, giving the report some legs.
It wouldn’t be too unusual for a streaming service to tackle news programming. After all, access to news is still one of the holes facing cord cutters when they ditch their high-priced pay TV subscription for Netflix alone.
Plus, Netflix’s rivals already offer their viewers access to news programming. Hulu lets viewers watch news shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox; CBS All Access provides access to CBS news shows, including “60 Minutes,” “CBS Evening News,” “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Sunday Morning,” among others; and HBO, which steams to cord cutters via HBO NOW, has news content from VICE as well as the humorous take on current events provided by “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
In addition, Netflix seemed to be stepping closer to the news space in recent months, with things like David Letterman’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” where the talk show host has interviewed notable figures like Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai. The New York Times also reported last month that Obama was in negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows – like one where he’d moderate conversations on hot button political issues, such as immigration or voting rights.
Certainly it didn’t seem like a stretch to think weekly news could be next on Netflix’s agenda.
But Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, dismissed this idea straight out on yesterday’s call.
“Our move into news has been misreported over and over again,” he stated. “We’re not looking to expand into news beyond the work that we’re doing in short-form and long-form feature documentary.”
He also clarified that Netflix doesn’t consider the kind of work that Letterman is doing “news.”
“The topical interview shows….keep in mind that they’re entertainment. Those are a form of entertainment,” Sarados noted. “David Letterman is a great talk show host, not a newscaster. So we’ll definitely do more of that,” he said.
He also declined to comment on the report about the Obamas “or any other deals that would be in various states of negotiations right now,” which essentially confirmed that negotiations with the Obamas were, in fact, taking place.
The statement doesn’t mean that MarketWatch’s report is entirely wrong. It could just mean that the way Netflix classifies what it considers a “news series,” is different from how MarketWatch’s source perceived the program’s content. If Netflix were to launch a John Oliver-style show, for example, or something like “The Daily Show,” it likely would consider that entertainment, not news.