How Ted Sarandos went from video store clerk to Netflix co-CEO
By LA Stories Staff Hollywood
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Feb. 06, 2023
If you told a young Ted Sarandos that someday he would be one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, never in his wildest dreams would he believe you.
As a boy growing up in Phoenix, Sarandos would stay up late watching television shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Happy Days.” His first job was working as a video store clerk, where he made sure to watch every video in the store and provide recommendations to his customers.
“Over time, what would happen is the store would be very busy, and people would be lined up to get in my line because they wanted me to make a suggestion for them,” he said.
Today, Sarandos is co-CEO of the Netflix streaming giant. On Part 1 of a special two-part episode of “LA Stories,” he shares with host Giselle Fernandez the story behind his rise to power at one of the biggest media companies in the world.
He worked his way up from the job at the video store, eventually overseeing the western region of the home video distributor. When an article about his success came out in 1999, it caught the attention of Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who brought Sarandos on to help build the company.
“I did a deal with Warner Bros. and with Sony to do revenue sharing on DVD, which was an unheard-of thing at the time,” Sarandos said. “Reed saw the article and said, ‘Oh, this is what we need.’”
While working for Netflix, Sarandos went on to make some of the biggest entertainment deals the industry had ever seen. He bet big on the television binge when he led the investment of $100 million into “House of Cards.”
He also found success in his personal life, marrying the love of his life, Nicole Avant. While he had plenty to be thankful for, success did not come without hardships. Within a matter of weeks, he lost both his mother-in-law — Jacqueline Avant, who died in a horrific home invasion — and his father.
“I’ve drawn a lot of strength of people around me to get through it,” said Sarandos.
Despite the hardships, he still feels like the luckiest man in Hollywood and says he gets excited to do the job every single day.
“The gift of this job, this career that I’ve had, is I have literally met all my living heroes,” he said. “And that’s a pretty rare gift, I think. And I’ve not been disappointed by any of them.”