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Netflix talks ad plans with Google, Comcast and Roku at Cannes Lions

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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

June 24, 2022 | 4 min read

At Cannes Lions, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the streamer had entered talks with the likes of Roku, Google and Comcast as potential partners to help it introduce ads to its platform.

Following Netflix’s decision to build an ad-free tier to support its struggling subscription model, the industry has been eagerly waiting to hear its plans.

Without an existing ad sales infrastructure, Netflix needs external support. Speaking at a Future of Entertainment session, Sarandos made it clear Netflix had no immediate plans to own its own advertising arm, but said that “if it becomes so important [that] we want to have control over it, we might.”

Ted Sarandos at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Ted Sarandos at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Google was the first company to emerge as having taken a meeting with Netflix to discuss a deal. It has an existing relationship with Netflix as the provider of its ad-buying tools. Netflix could use Google’s ad-serving tech and also lean on its video expertise with YouTube in its portfolio.

Comcast was also touted as a potential partner. The media conglomerate owns the video buying platform FreeWheel, which could help Netflix deliver ads. It also owns NBCUniversal, which has a hefty sales team that could assist Netflix with selling ads.

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In early June rumors first emerged that Netflix was in talks to buy Roku after the streaming device manufacturer unexpectedly closed its trading window – a move often made by companies ahead of major company news. Following the reports, Roku stock surged 13%.

When pressed on a potential Roku acquisition, Sarandos was dismissive, replying: “I don’t know where that came from.”

For industry commentators, a Roku buyout appears to be the most likely and makes the most amount of sense as a vertically-integrated content and ad platform would help both businesses compete, and the companies have a shared history and culture.

Elsewhere, Sarandos teased a few more ad plan details. He revealed Netflix would ease into the market, “which we’ll build on and iterate to make Netflix a destination for users.”

He added: “What we’ll do first is not representative of what the product will be ultimately. Start light, keep it simple and iterate fast.”

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