How will Netflix’s top exec reshuffle play out?

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“It appears to the world [that] Netflix hasn't been so forthcoming about Scott Stuber, who has been in charge of the Netflix movies, [who will] report to Bela Bajaria, and that is a wrinkle,” says Kim Masters. Photo by Elliott Cowand Jr/Shutterstock.

Netflix has announced some major reshuffling of its top executives. Reed Hastings, one of the founders of the company, will become executive Chairman and Ted Sarandos, who had been its Co-CEO, will now have Greg Peters, who is more on the tech side, as a partner. Meanwhile, Bela Bajaria, who has been overseeing streaming shows, has become Chief Content Officer, and Scott Stuber, who has been in charge of Netflix’s movies, now reports to her. How will this play out? 

Plus, Kim Masters and Matt Belloni take a quick look at this year’s Oscar nominations. 

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

Will there be trouble? 

Kim Masters: There's several things to unpack about this. First of all, I am told that Ted Sarandos had very much hoped that he would be flying solo at the top. That's not what happened. The board apparently decided otherwise. 

Then there's this issue of Scott Stuber reporting to Bela Bajaria, and he is not used to having that layer there, and Bajaria is a network television executive in her prior life before going to Netflix. 

So the question is, will she start getting involved with movies? And is there going to be trouble? Is this going to be another chapter coming? Or will she stick to the stuff she knows? And Stuber will continue to run the movies without having another cook in that kitchen? 

Matt Belloni: For the short term, it will probably be business as usual. There's no real reason for either of those executives, Bajaria or Stuber, to really encroach on the other’s domain. 

What happens if there's a pivot?

Belloni: What happens if there's a problem? What happens when Netflix looks at the data and says, “Maybe this film strategy isn't working,’ or, ‘Maybe we should be doing other things.” Then it will be Bajaria’s job to essentially fix the film group, and that could put them into conflict. They are friends. They go back a long time at NBC Universal, so you would think they would be able to reconcile that. But who knows? 

Stuber probably has other options if he wants to do something, although it's very difficult these days to get the kind of perk you have at Netflix, where you can make $3 billion worth of movies every year and get them out and actually make them happen.

Power dynamics

Masters: The only thing that has been clear [is] that Scott Stuber wanted “Glass Onion” to play longer in theaters, would like to see Netflix change its policy, vis-à-vis theaters, has been somewhat frustrated with others [and] volume that they want him to make, which is hard to do if you want any kind of consistent quality. So I think that's sort of [an] open secret. 

The question is, does that become a rupture as this conflict arises in the power dynamic? He can't encroach on Bajaria because he reports to her now, but she can encroach on him, and that is what we will see unfolding.

What about Ted Sarandos?

Belloni: On the Sarando’s front, do you think that becomes a problem? It's pretty clear, [and] he even admitted in a Bloomberg interview this past weekend, that he didn't see himself having a partner as CEO. But now he says he's on board for it. So we'll see how long that lasts. But do you think that will be an issue?

Masters: You're touching on something that I find kind of interesting. Yes, because there is a question of this new title. Is he supposed to be as day-in and day-out getting involved in whatever he chooses to as much, or be more up in corporate type responsibilities? What does it really mean that they gave him this title and gave him that partner? I think that will play out. That’s where we are right now.

Belloni: They said that they have different skill sets, and that Reed Hastings is still going to be around as Executive Chairman, so he would kind of be a gut check/deciding vote if there was ever a disagreement. 

They have been very careful to present data that suggests that companies with co-CEOs perform better than companies without. I think that's a little bit difficult to apply to the entertainment industry, but it has been done in the past, so we'll see how it plays out.

Masters: We'll see. 

Oscar nominations are here

Masters: Meanwhile, the Oscar noms are out. This is the highest grossing domestically and probably internationally ever. Best Picture class, obviously, “Top Gun: Maverick” with $1.5 billion dollars, and “Avatar: The Way of Water” going past $2 billion and counting. 

Those movies did very well and bolstered it, and so of course the academy is hoping that the low ratings that have plagued them in recent years will be somewhat addressed by having big popular movies and big stars.

Belloni: The academy kind of got a gift in the nominations this year because there are these twin-billion-plus grocers that everybody has seen or movie fans have seen. There's a couple other films like “Elvis,” which is about $300 million. That's a big draw for a certain demo. 

There are stars. Tom Cruise is nominated as a producer of “Top Gun” even though he was not nominated as an actor. There's two big music stars, Lady Gaga nominated for her song for “Top Gun” and Rihanna nominated for her song in “Black Panther.” There are hooks here like Angela Bassett [who] could become the first Marvel actress to win an Oscar and that's a lure for Marvel fans. 

So there are things here that the Academy can work with, at least to try to bring those ratings up from 16.6 million viewers, which is down significantly from the heyday of the show.

Not a great year for women

Masters: Not a single woman director in the best director category, but history-making in terms of Asian representation.

Belloni: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” really helped [with] 11 nominations, a number of which went to Asian performers.

Masters: So we're still in suspense about who wins what, but more will be revealed. 




Kim Masters


Joshua Farnham