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Netflix Names Bela Bajaria New Global TV Head: How will it Help Bolster Growth at the OTT Platform?

Sep 11, 2020 7:59 AM 4 min read
Editorial

“Change is the only constant.” 

If there is one company that has craftily absorbed this cliched phrase into its corporate strategy playbook, it is Netflix!

Netflix came into existence as a DVD rental-by-mail firm over two decades ago, evolving into a global video streaming powerhouse. And tactful changes are very much at the centre of this staggering growth.

In the latest series of events, Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix is set to exit the company after 18 long years. Replacing her would be Bela Bajaria.

Ms. Bajaria, who joined Netflix in 2016, would be elevated from her current role as Vice President, Local-Language Originals, to the newly-created role of Head of Global Television.

The rejig is part of co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ plan to streamline the content team’s operations, with one global Film team being led by Scott Stuber and one for TV to be now led by Ms. Bajaria.

More importantly, Ms. Bajaria’s appointment signals strong management intent towards bolstering its footprint in local language originals (read international markets), a key growth area for Netflix. 

 

Bela Bajaria
Source: Variety

 

Back to the Past

So what does Ms. Bajaria bring to the table after all, that has accelerated her career at the OTT giant from unscripted programming and international content to Head of Global TV in a span of merely four years? 

First, she is a seasoned entertainment and media professional having spent a decade and a half at CBS, a major broadcast network, overseeing movies and miniseries, and leading cable programming for CBS’ studio. In her brief stint as President, Universal TV studio, she oversaw fairly successful shows like Chicago Fire and The Mindy Project.

Second, at Netflix, she is credited for having led popular shows such as You, Unorthodox, and more recently, Indian Matchmaking, and driving original programming in Latin America, the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Third, Ms. Bajaria, born in London, having spent her childhood in the UK, Zambia and the United States, and winning the Miss India USA crown in 1991 is the global citizenry profile that highly resonates with Netflix’s ambitions of global content domination.

Fourth, Ms. Bajaria is quite a flagbearer for equal and diverse representation. In fact one of her flagship successes was Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, the first American show starring and created by an Indian-American, back in 2012.  “I always imagine a brown girl as the hero of the story. That’s the way I see the world,” she said in an interview. 

 

The Switch

This vital transition undeniably endorses Ms. Bajaria’s strengths and Netflix’s increasing focus on growth outside of America. 

While US and Canada (USCAN) remain Netflix’s home market, they account for only about 36% of Netflix’s 193 million paying subscribers (down from over 50% two years back) and in recent years this has been dogged by concerns of saturation.

In the most recently reported quarter, Netflix added 10 million subscribers, far exceeding its original outlook of 7.5 million net additions. While the number of global net additions was well ahead of street estimates, it's worthwhile to note that subscriber additions in the USCAN region totaled just 2.9 million.

In fact, on a half-yearly basis, the trend is even more pronounced. Of the 25.9 million subscriber adds, USCAN accounted for just 5.2 million.

In last year’s second quarter, Netflix reported a loss of 126,000 subscribers in USCAN - the first time ever it had shed customers.

 

 

On the flipside, the Asia-Pacific region, which includes South Korea, Japan and India, is the fastest-growing segment, with 22.5 million subscribers at the end of Q2/20, more than triple what it had at the end of March 2018. However in terms of financials, the region represents the smallest part of the business, with quarterly revenue of $569m, accounting for merely 9% of the total.

The E-ME-A, including Europe and parts of Africa and the Middle East is the second-fastest-growing region and the second largest, with 61.5 million subscribers. The area includes France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Israel and South Africa.

And therefore, as competition gets fiercer, it only makes sense that Netflix taps into these relatively unexplored markets, especially international non-English markets that have high broadband penetration and mobile-focused countries.

To this effect, the company is currently working on 200 different projects globally, all slated for release in the coming months.

 

Netflix Names Bela Bajaria New Global TV Head: How will it Help Bolster Growth at the Streaming Giant?

 

India Play

With deeper internet penetration and increasing digitisation, the Indian market is a goldmine. While Netflix doesn’t report India specific subscriber numbers, industry estimates put it at sub 5 million, This is well short of the 100 million number that CEO Reed Hastings had famously projected in his quote that his next 100 million subscribers will be "coming from India". A huge growth runway indeed. 

Netflix had announced a ₹3,000cr ($400m) investment over a period of two years to expand the company’s presence in the country through original content creation.

In addition to this, Netflix India has announced an aggressive content push. It has announced 17 new titles for the “coming months”, including six new movies and two new TV series.

A familiar face at the helm might help accelerate Netflix's global expansion. Given her track record with local content and the consistent rise in international revenue over the past couple of year, Ms. Bajaria’s acceleration might indeed prove to be a game-changer for the giant.

FIN.

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