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Netflix’s Bela Bajaria says streamer going ‘back to basics’ after challenges

Netflix’s Bela Bajaria speaking in Banff today

Netflix’s head of global television Bela Bajaria has said the streaming giant is going “back to the basics” as it looks to steady the ship, following its first subscriber losses in more than a decade.

The exec conceded  the challenges of the past few months had been “noisy” but insisted the company plans to continue blazing a trail in the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace.

“We’re not doing some radical shift in our business. We’re not merging, we’re not having a big transitional phase,” Bajaria told delegates at the Banff World Media Festival.

“The way I look at it, during a noisy period like this is, it really is [about] getting back to the basics. And the basics [for my team of creative executives] is, are you out there meeting good writers, producers and directors? Are we being global? Are we taking chances? Are we still being a great place to work for ourselves and for creators?”

After an unchallenged ascent to streaming supremacy over the past decade, Netflix has hit sustained turbulence since revealing its first-quarter financial results in April. In Q1, the streamer lost around 200,000 subscribers and said it expects to lose a further two million in the coming quarter.

Stalling subscriber growth has sent its stock price plummeting to less than US$200 per share, compared with around US$590 per share at the turn of the year. At its height in the fall of 2021, the stock was trading at US$700 per share.

At the time, Netflix cited a number of challenges, including password sharing and increased competition from other streaming platforms, and vowed to introduce an AVoD tier to bring in new subscribers.

While Bajaria acknowledged the challenges, she said the company remains steadfast in its belief that its business model is solid.

“The business works. When we make a great show, like Stranger Things, people watch. They watch it, talk about it. The idea of launching television streaming on the internet is here to stay. Fundamentally, when we make great shows and great movies, a lot of people are going to watch. That holds true.”

Netflix dropped a number of announcements today, including a season two renewal for legal drama The Lincoln Lawyer, created by David E Kelley. Dailyn Rodriguez will join Ted Humphrey as co-showrunner and executive producer on the second run.

Furthermore, the streamer revealed that South Korean scripted drama Squid Game – its biggest ever original series – is being adapted as an unscripted competition series, with UK-based prodcos Studio Lambert and The Garden set to coproduce. The news came two days after the streamer confirmed the scripted series is headed to a second season.

Bajaria also revealed that Netflix is launching a new development programme for Canadian writers.

The Advancing Voices: Netflix Canada Creator Programme will provide seven writers from underrepresented groups with a paid professional development opportunity to develop materials for series and hone their pitching skills, said Netflix. The selected participants for the inaugural edition are Bita Joudaki, James Sanders, Rama Rau, Jeff Barnaby, Adam Hussein and the writing team of Jabbari Weekes and Tichaona Tapambwa.

Asked whether Netflix will begin to pull back on some of the rich overall deals it has inked with creators, including Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, in recent years, Bajaria said the plan is to continue forging pacts with high-level talent.

“Those deals and formalising exclusive relationships with writers is part of the business, so I don’t think that goes away,” she said.

Highlighting the success of period drama Bridgerton, Bajaria said: “We’re so happy to have those deals, and Bridgerton has been extraordinarily successful for us. We love so much of what Shonda is doing.

“It’s been amazing to see period romance and female programming. Those deals are really important. Ryan [Murphy] has The Watcher and Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story for us later this year, which are such great shows.”

Bajaria also addressed speculation that Netflix will reduce its content spending as it looks to find savings across its business. To that point, she said the streamer had no intention to reduce the level of content spending in the near term.

“We don’t expect that to go down,” Bajaria said of Netflix’s planned US$17bn content spend this year.

She added: “We make series and movies – we don’t do anything else. As a core business we do that all day, every day, and for us the focus is still that. How do you make things that are local and specific and great? When we make great things, a lot of people watch and share them.”


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