Netflix emphasizes business as usual, but the confusion remains – Analysis – Deadline

Against the background of lower-than-expected subscriber growth and a subsequent round of about 150 layoffs, Netflix was all anyone wanted to talk about at this week’s Banff World Media Festival, and while the mainstreamer highlighted Business As Usual, outside sources said that are confusing messages coming from the Los Gatos headquarters.

A series of panels and key remarks, including one by Global TV CEO Bela Bajaria, were intended for Netflix to highlight the list of 1,500 delegates from commissioners, CEOs and journalists that the streamer is still doing what it has always done: commissions the best producers, screenwriters and directors to make the best shows.

“Back to basics” was the message from Bajaria, which rejected the need for a “radical change” in the ranks of the streamer. More junior officials also pushed the BAU line in private, arguing that now was the time to reduce noise and focus on what Netflix has always done best.

But several senior sources in the production community were less certain, reporting confusing messages from Netflix commissioners when it came to budgets and the type of programming they were looking for.

Contractors report difficulties with business issues when determining how much is being offered for a particular show during contract negotiations, reversing an era when Netflix was considered a lot of company with a blank check.

Bajaria outlined the streamer’s plans to spend $ 17 billion this year, but was faced with the question of where these costs would go if the lower-than-expected growth continued, eventually saying it would run “parallel”.

“This moment seems like a long time,” said the indie boss. “[Netflix] they felt they could do whatever they wanted for a long time and I think that created a lot of problems. “

While defending Netflix’s status as a “huge subscriber base and dominant” in the market, Kevin Begs, chairman of the Orange is the new black Producer Lionsgate TV Group told Deadline that the streamer “may need to be smarter and more disciplined in the future.”

Meanwhile, facing fierce competition from Amazon Prime Video and Disney +, along with AVoD players like Roku, who were also present at Banff, Netflix is ​​taking the time to understand the direction it wants to go in genres such as drama. and without a script, according to sources.

The recent round of 150 cuts (rumored to be coming), broken by the deadline, some of which were commissioners, only added to the confusion over certain projects.

Deadline was informed of a case of a producer who met with a commissioner about a project by emailing them hours later to say thank you, only to receive an “Out of Office” message from this man that he had been fired. . Many development projects have been canceled, according to several.

As for acquisitions, a senior figure in a trading house said distributors are now more inclined to sell broadcasts to multiple local broadcasters in parts around the world than to license Netflix worldwide – a return to the days before global streamers. which they would have had was unthinkable six months ago.

“It is clear that Netflix pays less and takes less global rights,” they added. “Netflix is ​​more careful with money and takes shorter windows, so if we can get more money by selling, say, local networks in France, Germany and Australia, then we will do that.

One CEO predicted that Netflix could withstand the storm, citing Reid Hastings’ public expression over Qwikster’s failed DVD rental a decade ago.

Canadian battlefield

Netflix, which dominated the Canadian Film Festival, felt appropriate as the nation was the newest venue for a string of regulatory battles facing the streamer. Members of the Canadian government, producers and commercial bodies are currently passing a bill in Parliament called C11, which will ensure that streamers must order a certain amount of local content and fulfill their Canadian content obligations (known as CanCon).

As Canada’s heritage minister, Pablo Rodriguez and Ian Scott’s chairman of the Broadcasting Committee were in Banff to highlight the C11 case, while private figures from the Canadian industry opposed Netflix’s activities in the country. One said that Canada was treated as a “manufacturing services industry”, adding: “If they want to take advantage of our country, they have to broadcast to Canada from Canadians.”

That may not be what he meant in 2019, when Netflix signed a controversial agreement with the government, which meant it would not pay taxes until 2023 and would spend C $ 500M ($ 383M) on content content in return. English and French from the country. It should also be noted the largest Canadian series on Netflix, of Shit Creekwas created by CBC and the streamer did not join the show until the third season.

Withdrawal

With such a battle raging in Israel, as Deadline recently revealed, it’s no surprise to hear that Netflix is ​​backing down.

Providing recent evidence to the Heritage Committee, Netflix Canada Public Policy Director Stefan Cardin, who previously did the same work for the Canadian Media Fund, said the streamer had spent $ 3.5 billion on 2017 Canadian movies and series.

“We remain concerned about a rigorous approach that will simply transpose the current regulatory requirements of Canadian broadcasting groups to online streaming services,” he said, noting that Netflix will not have the flexibility to meet obligations in areas such as news and sports. produced or funded solely by Netflix will still not be eligible.

“This will not create a level playing field, nor would it be fair or just,” he added.

Back in Banff, commissioners from Peter Freelander’s screenwriting team told the engaged audience that they are currently traveling across the country and meeting with producers, while taking market prices into account to avoid causing budget inflation that has affected others. markets such as the United Kingdom

The debate reflects the challenges that Netflix may continue as it delves deeper into local territories in search of the next squid game Lupine or Money robbery.

Generally speaking, the battle for the streamer to regain his seat comfortably at the top of the tree is definitely underway.

“There are so many ways to consume content now,” said a senior industry source. “What’s going on with Netflix in the long run?” It’s hard to say.”

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