Reed Hastings on Netflix Exec Departures: "You Got to Earn It Every Year"

Reed Hastings -NETFLIX-January 17, 2020-Getty-H 2020
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Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings

After promoting Bela Bajaria to global TV chief last month, the company said goodbye to three high-ranking execs.

Netflix bosses Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos are weighing in on the recent spate of executive exits at the streaming service.

After promoting former local language originals vp Bela Bajaria to global TV chief in September, the company said goodbye to three high-ranking execs: English language originals head Cindy Holland, drama exec Channing Dungey and comedy vp Jane Wiseman.

Asked about the management changes in an earnings interview Tuesday, Hastings defended Netflix's management philosophy, which includes the now famous "keeper test" that he wrote about at length in his recent book. "It's a normal model," he said. "No one gets to keep the job for free. You got to earn it every year, which is intensely challenging and we all love that part of it."

The Netflix co-founder pointed to other management changes over the past decade — including Greg Peters heading up product three years ago, Spencer Neumann becoming CFO a year and a half ago and Spencer Wang taking on investor relations eight years ago — and how well their appointments have turned out for the company. "They have all grown into those roles," said Hastings. "We're always trying to broaden our talent as we take on bigger challenges."

Sarandos — who was recently elevated to co-CEO alongside Hastings — addressed the exec shuffle by explaining why he chose to elevate Bajaria over other Netflix vets like Holland. "I can talk to you about one of the major changes we're really excited about," he said. "I restructured the content team to be more like our film team and more like our animation team and have one global organization, and to run that I tapped Bela Bajaria, who's been with Netflix for a long time."

Sarandos praised Bajaria's track record in both unscripted and international programming. He noted that she joined Netflix in 2016 to start the streamer's unscripted group, bringing in her own team from scratch and "developing this incredible unscripted slate we have today." He deemed her subsequent move over to the platform's local language originals team "hugely successful," before explaining how those experiences made her the best fit for the role. "These are two areas of the business that are going to grow three or four time over the next three to five years," he said, "so I thought that she was really well-suited to take on that organization."

He went on to tout Bajaria's scripted résumé, too, noting she was responsible for bringing in such gems as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Master of None while she was the president of Universal Television. She also orchestrated the deal to make You a Netflix original and delivered the "first great season" of The Witcher. "I think Bela is going to be phenomenal running that group," he said.

As for the slew of top executives shown the door in the wake of Bajaria's promotion, Sarandos didn't say much, only acknowledging that "whenever you put new change at the top, there's some downstream effects as well."

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