In 2019, when comedian Mike Myers was pitching a new comedy series to Netflix, program executives at the company were skeptical. The onetime “Saturday Night Live” star hadn’t had a hit since the early 2000s and Netflix staffers worried a new series wouldn’t attract an audience, according to people familiar with the discussions.
But Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos was undeterred. A fan of comedians ranging from Jerry Seinfeld to David Spade, Sarandos greenlit the show, “The Pentavarate,” which came out last month—to wide scorn from reviewers, who panned it as an unfunny farce.
The episode wasn’t unusual. Sarandos—a powerful figure at Netflix, who has run its content side since it was a DVD rental service and who eventually became co-CEO—has made the streaming giant a magnet for Hollywood talent in part by his friendliness to talent. He frequently backs stars and directors over his own staff, so much so that Netflix’s finance team at one time dubbed spending on shows and movies he wanted “the Ted tax,” said three people familiar with the situation. Others refer to such projects as “Ted specials.”