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A Netflix executive explains how it's preparing for a future without Disney

  • In an interview with Variety, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos says that as it gets bigger, major networks will be less likely to license their content to it.
  • Netflix is investing heavily in owning original TV and movies, despite having $20.5 billion in debt and being tied up in studio commitments.
  • Sarandos also doesn't understand Amazon's strategy to go to theaters first, which he said is "perpetuating a model that feels more and more disconnected with the population."
Netflix content executive director, Ted Sarandos attends the Vive Netflix 2017 at Museo Casa de la Bola on August 2, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Victor Chavez | Getty Images
Netflix content executive director, Ted Sarandos attends the Vive Netflix 2017 at Museo Casa de la Bola on August 2, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Disney made big waves recently when it said it would remove its movies from Netflix by 2019.

But in an interview with Variety, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company is preparing for a future without Disney — or any other major media company.

"I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a 'frenemy,'" Sarandos told Variety.

So Netflix is pushing ahead with even more original content, Sarandos said. It's currently $20.5 billion in debt and tied up in studio commitment deals, but the company isn't overspending despite the mounting costs, he said.

Although it started out five years ago licensing first-window rights — meaning shows would have to debut on Netflix — it's focusing on creating more of its own shows like "Stranger Things." It also has 17 local market series, which it hopes to grow to up to 100 shows over the next few years, according to Sarandos. It is persuading showrunners like Shonda Rhimes to leave their network homes, and noted filmmakers like the Coen brothers to enter TV.

The company is also dabbling in unscripted reality TV including competition show "Ultimate Beastmaster" and the upcoming David Letterman project. It has about 50 shows in the genre in development.

As for growing pressure from Amazon, which has already found success in the movie space with titles like "Manchester by the Sea," Sarandos said he doesn't consider it a competitor.

"I don't think we compete with Amazon in the movie space at all," he told Variety, referring to how the company releases movies in theaters first. "I frankly don't understand their strategy. I don't understand why perpetuating a model that feels more and more disconnected with the population is good."