Netflix Executive: ‘We’d Rethink Our Entire Investment in Georgia’ If Heartbeat Bill Upheld

Sarandos, a top Obama campaign bundler, raised over $500,000 at a single Hollywood fundraiser for Obama

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos / Getty Images
May 28, 2019

Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, stated the video streaming company may consider pulling out production from the state of Georgia if the recently signed heartbeat bill is upheld in federal courts.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R.) signed the legislation, which would prohibit abortions in the state once a heartbeat is detected, in early May. The law, described as one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, has attracted the attention and protests of the entertainment industry as the state has emerged as a large hub for the entertainment industry creating almost 100,000 jobs and generating nearly $3 billion in revenue.

"We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law," Sarandos said in a statement first reported by Variety over the weekend.

While numerous other production companies have deferred on publicly weighing in on the law while it is litigated through the courts, Sarandos told Variety that Netflix will work with the A.C.L.U. to fight the law in court battles.

Sarandos indicated the company will continue to operate in the state as the law is not scheduled to come into effect until January 2020 but said the company could revise its decision if courts hold up the constitutionality of the legislation.

"Should it ever come into effect, we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia," Sarandos added.

Sarandos has a long history supporting Democratic candidates and causes. In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter described him and his wife as "Obama's $500,000 Power Couple." The couple raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. Sarandos is married to Nicole Avant who served as President Obama’s ambassador to the Bahamas from 2009 to 2011.

The close relationship with the former president helped Sarandos sign the former first couple to an exclusive production deal with the streaming company according to reporting from the New York Post.

The deal, announced last May, is worth an estimated $50 million dollars for the Obamas and will allow them to produce television shows and movies over a multiyear period.

"We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world," the Obamas said in a statement upon the announcement.

Saranados expressed his enthusiasm at the partnership with the Obamas in a company statement. Describing the former president and his wife as being "among the world’s most respected and highly recognized public figures," Sarandos said Netflix is "incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities."

Variety reported that Netflix was the only major production company operating in the state to respond to questions about whether they would continue to film in the state if the law goes into effect. Walt Disney Co., WarnerMedia, Sony Pictures Entertainment, NBCUniversal, Viacom, Fox, and Amazon Studios all declined requests to comment from Variety.