5:45pm PT by Natalie Jarvey, Lesley Goldberg
Netflix Shocker: Bela Bajaria to Lead Global TV, Cindy Holland Departs
One of Netflix’s veteran content executives is leaving the company in a surprise shake-up at the streaming giant.
Cindy Holland, vp original content who has spent nearly two decades at Netflix, is out amid a move by newly appointed co-CEO Ted Sarandos to streamline the the company's television ranks. Bela Bajaria, who of late was overseeing Netflix’s local-language productions, is being promoted to the newly created role of vp global television.
The move, a shocker that rippled through Hollywood after a long Labor Day weekend, restructures Netflix’s television group to mirror that of its film operations, which has a single leader in vp global film Scott Stuber. It comes as Netflix’s TV group has ballooned in recent years, with multiple executives running point on different parts of the global business. Sellers have complained that this made it difficult to know who to pitch.
“Since becoming co-CEO, I’ve wanted to simplify the way our content teams operate,” Sarandos explained in a statement Tuesday. Only Bajaria and Holland were up for the job, per sources, and Sarandos ultimately chose the relative streaming newcomer with a long TV track record over his colleague since the DVD-by-mail days. With Bajaria as the global TV lead, there was no role for Holland, who had been running all English-language episodic programming.
In his statement, Sarandos praised Bajaria's "versatility and creativity." Of Holland, he said, "These kinds of changes are never easy, and I am enormously grateful to Cindy Holland for everything she has done over the last 18 years at Netflix — first licensing DVDs and then as the driving force behind our first eight years of English original series. Cindy’s been a great champion of creators and the power that comes from seeing more perspectives reflected on screen — launching enduring dramas like Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things and The Crown. Most important of all she’s been a fabulous colleague. We wish her all the best for the future."
Bajaria joined Netflix in late 2016 after being pushed out as president at Universal TV. Her job at the time was to lead the team focused on TV and film licensing from U.S. studios as well as co-production relationships with U.S. networks. Bajaria reported directly to Sarandos rather than head of originals Holland as her role was completely separate from the latter's department. In March 2019, as local-language programming became a growth area for Netflix, she segued to a new role overseeing scripted and unscripted series in nearly all of Netflix’s international markets.
Bajaria’s major promotion comes after NBCUniversal courted her as its top choice to oversee all entertainment programming across NBC, newly launched streamer Peacock and cable networks including USA, Syfy, Bravo and E! as part of the conglomerate's recent restructuring. Warner Bros. TV co-president Susan Rovner, sources say, is now taking the NBCU job.
In Bajaria and Stuber, Netflix now has two seasoned Hollywood execs leading TV and film operations. The streamer has increasingly become a destination as high-level execs depart linear networks for streaming. (Channing Dungey, the former ABC Entertainment president, also calls Netflix home as vp originals.) Bajaria, who brought Greg Berlanti thriller You to the streamer after its short-lived run on Lifetime, is a well-connected executive who is deeply familiar with the studio system after five years at Universal TV. Before that, she spent time at CBS Television Studios, where she created the studio's cable division. Bajaria developed Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt during her time at UTV and counts Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox/Hulu's The Mindy Project, NBC's Superstore and A&E's Bates Motel among her previous credits.
As for Holland, it's unclear what's next for the exec who helped Netflix transition into a home for original programming. During her 18 years at the company, she ushered the streamer into scripted originals with high-profile early series including House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, adding mega-hits later including The Crown and Stranger Things. Under her purview, she helped build the streamer into a global behemoth and home to some of the top showrunners, among them Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes. She oversaw a massive originals slate that was driven by the streamer’s sky-high content budget. This year, Netflix set an Emmy record with 160 total nominations and topped stalwart HBO for the first time ever.
The Stanford graduate, who joined Netflix after serving as vp business development at Kozmoto.com, becomes a free agent at a time when major companies continue to look for experienced women to take on leadership roles. As such, Holland will likely field plenty of calls should she wish to take on a new entertainment venture.
“It has been a real joy to lead the original series team for the last eight years,” Holland said in a statement. “From transitioning the company out of DVDs into streaming, to launching our first slate of original series and documentaries, I've loved every moment. I am proud of the impact and the diversity of the stories we’ve brought to audiences around the world, and to have worked with some of the most inspiring creators and executives in our business.”