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Longtime Netflix exec Peter Friedlander has been promoted for the second time under Bajaria and will serve as head of U.S. and Canada scripted series. One of the streamer’s longest-serving creative execs, who helped steer Netflix into the scripted originals space with House of Cards, will now oversee the comedy and drama departments and will continue to lead the spectacle/event TV division that he was promoted to run in October as part of Bajaria’s first restructuring at the company since taking over for Cindy Holland.
Friedlander will also add oversight of Netflix’s overall deals for original series. With Friedlander taking on those added responsibilities, Brian Wright — who had been a rising star at Netflix since he joined from Nickelodeon in 2014 — has opted to exit the streamer. Sources note that Netflix felt it made the most sense for the head of U.S. originals to also oversee the company’s roster of high-profile overall deals (i.e., Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, the Duffer brothers) rather than having Wright — who was promoted in October from vp young adult and family content and oversaw hits like Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why and Umbrella Academy — continuing to function in the role. That overall deals role has now been eliminated, which prompted Wright’s exit. It’s also worth noting that Wright’s YA/family unit was consolidated into Netflix’s drama and comedy teams last year as part of Bajaria’s first restructuring.
The decision to promote from within for the head of U.S. originals (and Canada) followed a months-long search that saw the streamer meet and court multiple execs, including former Peacock/USA/Syfy head of originals Bill McGoldrick, among several others. Ultimately, Bajaria went with Friedlander given his long tenure and track record of developing series including Black Mirror, The Queen’s Gambit and the upcoming highly anticipated Sandman, Colin in Black and White and Cowboy Bebop, among others.
“Peter is an incredibly well-regarded and respected executive both inside and outside Netflix and is the perfect person to lead our strong U.S. team,” Bajaria said Thursday. “He’s been both a producer and programmer and brings deep and trusted partnerships with some of the world’s most talented creators. His track record of creative vision, innovation and partnership has resulted in some of Netflix’s boldest and most unforgettable shows, and I can’t wait to see what he does in this leadership role.”
The promotion marks a rise to the top for Friedlander, who joined Netflix in 2011 as director of original series. He was the company’s first creative exec hired to help develop scripted originals and worked on early hits Orange Is the New Black and Narcos. Since then, he’s held roles that included vp genre drama and has already had a hand in developing the upcoming Three-Body Problem from the Game of Thrones creators, one of Netflix’s many high-concept and big-budget originals.
“Since I joined Netflix, every day has been a new adventure and this might be the biggest yet,” Friedlander said. “I’m thankful to Bela for the opportunity to lead the UCAN scripted series team, an incredible team full of strong creative executives who make me proud every day with their courage, knowledge and creativity. I’m especially excited to work closely with even more of our creators, who bring our members so much joy around the world with their brilliant storytelling.”
Bajaria’s changes continue to make Netflix’s executive structure more like a traditional network and studio, with clear heads of divisions at a time when many industry insiders were unclear on just which executives to pitch what projects. The streamer previously featured silos focused on genre programming, prestige dramas, character-driven dramedies/soaps, YA/family fare and live-action comedies, among others.
Netflix shocked the industry last year by tapping Bajaria, who arrived in late 2016 after being pushed out as president of Universal TV (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), to replace the ousted Holland as head of global television. Holland, who hired Friedlander, had been the architect of Netflix’s originals, helping to transform the company from its DVDs-by-mail days.
Wright becomes the latest high-level executive to depart Netflix following Bajaria’s rise to the top. Channing Dungey, the vp original dramas who previously reported to Holland, decamped to take the top job at Warner Bros. TV Group. Nina Wolarsky, vp character-driven drama/dramedy and soaps, opted to leave the streamer next month after an eight-year run when her job function changed. Both Dungey and Wolarsky had overseen overall deals including Rhimes’, The Crown creator Peter Morgan’s and Jenji Kohan’s, among others. Comedy head Jane Wiseman also departed following a six-year run with the streamer, for whom she developed Grace and Frankie, Dead to Me and the successful adult animation slate.
Bajaria recruited NBC’s Tracey Pakosta to replace Wiseman as head of comedy at the streamer. The role reunited Pakosta with Bajaria after the duo previously worked together at Universal TV.
“My past seven years at Netflix have been a dream come true,” Wright said. “It’s not often you get the chance to make shows that the entire world embraces, like Stranger Things. And leading our YA/Family and overall deals teams has been an honor. I’m grateful for the opportunity and to the creators I’ve worked with for their partnership over the years. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and everything we’ve achieved and wish them much continued success.”
Added Bajaria and Friedlander in a joint statement: “Brian has brought passion and heart to all of his projects and he helped put Netflix on the map with shows like Stranger Things. We’re grateful for everything he has done and wish him great success with his next chapter.”
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