Amid weaker-than-expected subscriber growth and a string of roughly 150 layoffs, Netflix was all everyone wanted to talk about at this week’s Banff World Media Festival, and while top streamer bosses pointed to Business As Usual, outside sources reported messaging confusion coming from Los Gatos HQ.
A series of panels and speeches, including one from Global TV chief Bela Bajaria, were aimed at Netflix to emphasize to the 1,500 delegate list of commissioners, executives and journalists that the streamer is still doing what it has always done: commission the best producers, writers and directors to make the best shows.
“Back to basics” was the message from Bajaria, who shrugged off the need for “radical change” within the streamer’s ranks. More junior employees were also pushing the BAU line privately, saying now was the time to cut the noise and focus on what Netflix has always done best.
But several senior sources in the production community were less sure, reporting confusing messages from Netflix commissioners regarding budgets and the type of programming they seek.
Executives have reported business-related difficulties when establishing the amount offered for a particular show during contract negotiations, a reversal from the days when Netflix was considered a blank check company.
Bajaria laid out the streamer’s plans to spend $17 billion this year, but stumbled over a question about where that spending will go if weaker-than-expected growth continues, ultimately saying it will move “in parallel.” .
“This moment felt like a long time coming,” an independent boss said. “[Netflix] felt they could do whatever they wanted for a long time and I think that created a lot of problems.
While defending Netflix’s “huge sub and dominant” status in the market, Kevin Beggs, the president of Orange is the new black Producer Lionsgate TV Group, told Deadline that the streamer “may have to be more judicious and disciplined in the future.”
Meanwhile, facing fierce competition from Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, as well as AVoD players such as Roku that also had a presence in Banff, Netflix is taking the time to figure out where it wants to go in genres like only drama and unscripted, according to the sources.
The recent round of 150 layoffs (more rumors are imminent), broken by Deadline, some of whom were commissioners, has only added to the confusion around some projects.
Deadline was told of an example of a producer taking a meeting with a curator about a project, emailing them a few hours later to say thank you only to receive an Out Of Office from that person. saying they had been fired. Many development projects have been canceled, according to many.
On the acquisitions side, a senior official at an auction house said distributors are now more likely to sell shows to multiple local broadcasters piecemeal across the world rather than licensing Netflix globally. – a throwback to the days before global streamers that would have been unthinkable six months ago.
“Clearly Netflix is paying less and taking fewer global rights,” they added. “Netflix is more careful with the money and takes shorter windows, so if we can get more money by selling, for example, local networks in France, Germany and Australia, then we will.”
An executive predicted that Netflix could weather the storm, pointing to Reed Hastings’ public flip-flop on the failed Qwikster DVD rental spinoff that took place a decade ago.
Netflix dominating the conversation at a festival in Canada seemed fitting as the nation is the latest venue for all of the regulatory battles facing the streamer. Members of the Canadian government, producers and trade bodies are currently pushing through Parliament a bill, titled C11, which would ensure that broadcasters must order a certain amount of local content and meet Canadian content obligations (known as of CanCon) set by the government.
The likes of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission Chairman Ian Scott were in Banff to advocate for C11 while in private Canadian industry figures protest against the activity of Netflix in the country. One said Canada was treated as a “production services industry”, adding: “If they want to profit from our country, they have to make shows about Canada by Canadians”.
That can’t be what was on their minds in 2019, when Netflix signed a controversial deal with the government that meant it wouldn’t pay tax until 2023 and in return spend C$500 million ($383 million). dollars) in English and French content. from the country. Also worth noting is Netflix’s biggest Canadian series, Schitt’s Streamwas created by CBC and the streamer didn’t board the show until the third season.
With a similar battle raging in Israel, as Deadline recently revealed, it’s no surprise to hear that Netflix is pushing back.
Giving recent evidence to the heritage committee, Netflix Canada director of public policy Stéphane Cardin, who was doing the same work for the Canada Media Fund, said the streamer had spent $3.5 billion on movies and Canadian series since 2017.
“We remain concerned about a rigid approach that would simply transpose current regulatory requirements from Canadian broadcast groups to online streaming services,” he said, noting that Netflix would not have the flexibility to meet its obligations in areas such as news and sports and that titles produced or solely financed by Netflix would still not be eligible.
“It wouldn’t create a level playing field, nor would it be fair or equitable,” he added.
Back in Banff, the curators of Peter Frielander’s scripted series team told an engaged crowd that they were currently traveling the country meeting with producers, while factoring in market rates to avoid causing a stir. fiscal inflation that has beset other markets such as the UK.
The debate reflects the problems Netflix may continue to encounter as it delves deeper into local territories in search of the next squid game, Lupine Where Money theft.
More generally, the battle for the streamer to find his place comfortably seated at the top of the tree is well and truly on.
“There are so many ways to consume content now,” a senior industry source said. “What happens to Netflix in the long term? It’s hard to say.”