Ted Sarandos to Creatives: AI Won’t ‘Take Your Job,’ but a ‘Person Who Uses AI Well Might’ SuperNayr

The last four years in Hollywood have been a wake-up call for an industry that had spent the previous decade as a boomtown of creative ambition. With the COVID-19 pandemic, production costs increased, theater attendance went down, and the bubble finally burst. Feeling the squeeze, both the writers and actors went on strike last year, and the studios drastically cut spending. Streaming’s entrance into the film and television economy had inexorably altered the way for all parties to make money. A deal did eventually come to pass, one that heavily focused on safeguards surrounding AI.

Speaking to The New York Times for an extensive interview, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos likened the adjustment to working with AI to how his world-beating streamer handled shifting its business away from DVD rentals. He said, “In periods of radical change in any industry, the legacy players generally have a challenge, which is they’re trying to protect their legacy businesses. We entered into a business in transition when we started mailing DVDs 25 years ago. We knew that physical media was not going to be the future.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Walton Goggins attends the UK special screening of 'Fallout' at Television Centre on April 04, 2024 in London, England.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 25: Jury Member Lily Gladstone attends the Red Carpet of the closing ceremony at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2024 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Tip-toeing around the chicken-and-the-egg argument with respects to Netflix’s effect on physical media, Sarandos said sometimes you’ve got to kill your darlings.

“We just didn’t spend any time trying to protect our DVD business,” he said. “As it started to wane, we started to invest more and more in streaming. And we did that because we knew that that’s where the puck was going. At one point, our DVD business was driving all the profit of the business and a lot of the revenue, and we made a conscious decision to stop inviting the DVD employees to the company meeting. We were that rigid about where this thing was heading.”

When it comes to AI, Sarandos seems to be taking a somewhat softer approach, but is no less invested in transition as he was back then.

“I think that AI is a natural kind of advancement of things that are happening in the creative space today, anyway,” he said. “Volume stages did not displace on-location shooting. Writers, directors, editors will use AI as a tool to do their jobs better and to do things more efficiently and more effectively.”

Asked whether AI will ultimately replace human creatives, Sarandos said, “I have more faith in humans than that. I really do. I don’t believe that an AI program is going to write a better screenplay than a great writer, or is going to replace a great performance, or that we won’t be able to tell the difference. AI is not going to take your job. The person who uses AI well might take your job.”

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