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Netflix fires employee over information leak amid Dave Chappelle controversy

Netflix has dismissed an employee who leaked sensitive data following a backlash against the streamer’s handling of the controversy around US comedian Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer, the company has confirmed to C21.

Ted Sarandos

The recently released project caused controversy when it launched on October 5, with some arguing it contained transphobic and homophobic material.

“We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company,” said the streamer in a statement.

Netflix’s practices and policies state that employees are entrusted with information that is not publicly known and should not be shared outside the company.

The terminated employee, who was not named, shared information with US publication Bloomberg relating to budgets and viewership for several Netflix projects.

Among the data points shared with Bloomberg was that Netflix spent US$24.1m on Chappelle’s most recent special and US$23.6m on his 2019 special Sticks & Stones. The article also claimed that the streamer paid US$3.9m for Bo Burnham’s special Inside and US$21.4m for the Korean drama sensation Squid Game, which last week was confirmed as the most-watched Netflix series of all time, overtaking Bridgerton.

In addition to the budget information, Bloomberg also reported that Squid Game will generate around US$891m in what it calls “impact value,” an internal metric used by Netflix to measure the economic contribution of a given series.

The Bloomberg story also cited data that showed 132 million people watched at least two minutes of Squid Game in the first 23 days, meaning it surpassed Bridgerton as the biggest debut in its history. Around 87 million viewers finished the show within 23 days of its release, said the report, and around 117 million viewers watched at least 75 minutes of the show.

While Netflix shares information internally, the streamer has historically been very selective in the data it releases publicly around viewership, engagement and budgets.

Last week, it was revealed that a group of trans employees and allies at Netflix are planning a walk out on October 20 in response to the release of the Chappelle special and the fact that co-CEO Ted Sarandos backed the US comedian in an internal memo.

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today and we have a long-standing deal with him. His last special, Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award-winning stand-up special to date,” said Sarandos in the memo.

“As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

US media monitoring organization GLAAD was among the groups to condemn Chappelle’s special.

“Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalised communities. Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree,” said GLAAD in a statement.

With its third-quarter results set to be released tomorrow, Sarandos and the rest of the streamer’s executive team will likely to have more to say on both the Chappelle situation and the release of sensitive data.

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