Ahead of next week’s semiannual Television Critics Association press tour, Netflix staged its own press event Wednesday — dubbed Next on Netflix — at its Tudum Theater in Hollywood. Content chief Bela Bajaria and her top lieutenants, vp nonfiction Brandon Riegg and vp Latin America Paco Ramos, previewed a slate of new and returning TV series as well as a number of high-profile films for press.
The late-afternoon event, which was restricted to a who’s who of media, was effectively a TCA session that featured a sizzle reel (watch it, below) and a first look at a number of titles including upcoming seasons of Squid Game and Bridgerton, as well as rookies 3 Body Problem, The Gentleman and even Ryan Murphy’s upcoming second season of Monster. Following the hourlong blitz, Bajaria, Riegg and Ramos fielded questions ranging from its freshly inked deal with WWE and the recently removed Vince McMahon (“He’s gone,” Bajaria said) to what the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are prepping for the streaming giant.
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Below are the highlights from the event.
1. Vince McMahon is “gone”
Bajaria wasted little time when asked if she had any concerns about McMahon following the unseemly allegations that surfaced about the now-former WWE exec a mere two days after Netflix announced the deal that will bring Raw to the streamer next January. “He’s gone. So he’s not there. He’s gone,” Bajaria said of McMahon, who resigned Friday as TKO exec chairman and from the TKO board of directors after he was sued Jan. 25 over sex trafficking claims by a former employee who said she took hush money from the wrestling mogul. As for the deal, Riegg said it provides Netflix with 52 weeks of live programming and a way to bring in new subscribers, while expanding WWE’s footprint to Netflix’s 250 million global members. “The truth is we don’t know how much bigger it can get,” Riegg said. “I think we’re all really bullish on it, but we know that has an incredibly consistent audience for the last several decades. And so that’s really first and foremost where we’re starting at, and then we’ll see where we go from there.”
2. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are busy
Wrestling and McMahon, while dominating industry headlines for the past week, were not the first question Bajaria and company faced. Instead, that honor went to an inquiry about what, exactly, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been up to following a year that saw Prince Harry and former Suits star Markle lose their Spotify deal. “They have a movie and a TV show and a couple of unscripted shows” that are in development at the streamer, Bajaria said, without going further. The streamer in 2022 scrapped Pearl, an animated series aimed at kids that counted Liz Garbus among its exec producers.
3. The Mothership may have just been bad
Netflix announced Jan. 24 that it was scrapping plans to release The Mothership, a sci-fi feature film starring Halle Berry despite the fact that most of production had already been completed. While the film faced extensive reshoots, Bajaria called the move to kill it outright “rare” and chalked it up to “lots of production issues and story issues.”
“Everybody on both sides, the talent and us, all agreed that it was better to not launch it,” she said. “There was just a lot of issues during production and so creatively, so everybody just felt like it was the right thing to just not do it and to do something else together eventually.”
4. Help wanted: film chief
Film chief Scott Stuber, who sat quietly in the back of the theater during Wednesday’s presentation, announced Jan. 22 that he would be leaving the streamer come March after a seven-year tenure, in a move that wasn’t completely out of left field. Bajaria said Netflix was looking for someone with his same passion for filmmaking as the streaming giant works to replace him. “I really like the film chief who’s still sitting here right behind you,” she quipped when asked what qualities she was looking for in a candidate. “That passion and love for film. Really understanding and loving that and having experience and great relationships with filmmakers and somebody who’s really excited about what we’re doing at Netflix and understands we have such a great opportunity to make amazing films and lots of different kind of films and on this global service,” she said. “So much of what Scott brought is all of those things, but for me it’s always first and foremost somebody who has experience and somebody who loves it.”
5. Licensing shows and movies from others won’t impact originals
With an increasing number of hits from other conglomerates being licensed to Netflix — see Sex and the City and Young Sheldon — Bajaria said licensing popular films and TV shows from other platforms won’t have an impact on the volume of original titles that Netflix produces. “It is not making me rethink that at all,” Bajaria said when asked if Netflix’s $17 billion budget will be spent more on licensing shows from competitors over making originals.
To be clear, Warner Bros. Discovery has licensed titles to Netflix that were previously considered off limits — e.g., HBO originals including Sex and the City and Ballers — as a way to generate revenue while also exposing new viewers to those titles. It’s almost a full-circle moment, as media companies spent billions to compete with Netflix and are now turning to the streaming giant as a way to generate revenue. “Our originals are amazing. They drive a lot of conversation and that’s a very important part of our business,” she said. “Talent really benefits from finding a larger audience or having this kind of second shot at a show … and it’s great for the studios, they make more money.”
6. WWE may be a gateway to more live events
Raw will provide three hours of live programming every week come 2025 for Netflix, with Riegg noting live events — including the streamer’s upcoming presentation of the SAG Awards — are “a terrific tool in terms of expanding the portfolio.” The move, Riegg said, is a direct callback to such live broadcast events as Dancing With the Stars, The Voice and Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk. “It’s applicable to frankly all the content genres that we have,” Riegg said of the opportunity for more live events. “And the hope is as we get more attuned to what people are responding to, it’s like we’ll have a better sense of the bigger eventized moments that we can make live.” One such opportunity, Riegg said, might be elements of the second season of singing competition show Rhythm and Flow. “Live drives a lot of conversation and I think you can bring people together when you have some of these really big can’t-miss events,” he said. “And that’s going to be our goal. No different than our biggest films or our biggest series that we launch on service.”
7. Netflix movies won’t be coming to a theater near you anytime soon
“We are the only real pure-play streamer and our members love films and they want to see films on Netflix. And for us, that’s always going to be the most important thing,” Bajaria said when asked about whether the streamer’s feature films could be released theatrically. “A lot of other companies and businesses do theatrical and it’s a great business for them. It’s just not our business.”
Here’s the Next on Netflix sizzle reel, featuring a few seconds of Squid Game season two and a slew of other film and TV titles:
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