In January 2013, when Netflix was just dipping its toes into the original content waters, Ted Sarandos, the company’s content boss, issued a pithy assessment of the battle for entertainment supremacy that was to come. “The goal,” Sarandos said, “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”
Already boasting a robust streaming platform, Netflix wanted Emmy-worthy content to compete with HBO’s impressive library. It needed to own more of its own content, so it wouldn’t be vulnerable to other studios removing shows and movies from the service. Nor would it have to rely on pricy licensing deals. It had to become a self-sustaining Hollywood studio not only in order to survive, but, more importantly, to grow where it wanted to grow.
And HBO, a well-oiled content machine, needed to embrace TV’s inevitable future by building out its own Netflix-like distribution model if it had any hope of staving off the looming crisis of viewers cutting their cable cords.