With dwindling subscriber numbers and reports of internal conflict, Netflix is looking to restructure original programming. According to a couple of new reports, the streaming service finds itself in a tight position, both internationally and in India.
Bollywood Life cites ‘a well-placed’ insider as saying that Netflix is looking to axe as much as 90% of its upcoming slate, in an effort to produce more commercial fare. A major casualty of this move is the the long-delayed second season of Delhi Crime. The show has reportedly not turned out as well as executives would’ve liked, with extensive reshoots being ordered. Previously, series co-creator Richie Mehta had departed the project.
A similar situation unfolded recently with the hyped Baahubali prequel series, which was reportedly shot twice, and was still shelved. A creative team led by SS Rajamouli was originally spearheading the show, but was replaced by Kunal Deshmukh. Baahubali: Before the Beginning began production in 2018, with Mrunal Thakur in the lead. Wamiqa Gabbi was said to have replaced her in the second iteration.
Additionally, filmmaker Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment, which had signed an exclusive deal with Netflix, terminated the agreement in 2021, according to the Economic Times. No new titles from Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment have been announced since 2020, despite a much-publicised deal between Red Chillies and Netflix in 2017. The production company’s latest film, Love Hostel, was released instead on ZEE5. During a January investor call, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings said that the streamer’s lack of success in India was ‘frustrating’. “In every other major market, we’ve got the flywheel spinning. It frustrates us that we haven’t been as successful in India yet,” he said, according to a Business Today report.
Internationally, the tides reportedly turned after the 2020 fall of executive Cindy Holland, who was behind the streamer’s first wave of prestige titles, such as House of Cards and Stranger Things. The Hollywood Reporter said that over time, co-CEO Ted Serandos began favouring Bela Bajaria’s taste over Holland’s. Bajaria, who recently schmoozed with top Bollywood celebrities in Mumbai, was behind hits such as You, Squid Game and Lupin.
According to THR, internal conflict reached a fever-pitch when Holland and Bajaria were pitted against each other. One of Holland’s last titles was the critical and commercial hit The Queen’s Gambit, which the report cites insiders as saying Bajaria was dismissive of. Holland was said to disagree with the streamer’s quantity over quality model, and was apprehensive of the direction in which they were headed. THR cited another insider as saying, “I wonder if, say, a bonobo throwing sh*t at a whiteboard full of titles as a method of deciding what projects to make would have more or less success than all of these other ‘deciders’ who think they know what people want or don’t want.”
A ‘profound culture-shift’ took place after Holland’s departure. “Netflix was a gut-driven, risktaking, maverick culture. Now it’s more prudent and frequently indecisive. But what’s also true is that the Cindy era had no cost controls. It was therefore unsustainable as a business model. That’s a fact,” a talent associated with the streamer said.
Netflix reported a subscriber loss of 200,000 in Q1 2022, plummeting stock prices and rattling competitors who had entered the ring in recent years. Measures to mitigate the disaster are being contemplated. In India, the streamer made moves to tackle similar problems by introducing a mobile-only plan, which customers can purchase for Rs 199 a month. Ad-supported models are reportedly being tested internationally.