EXCLUSIVE: Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s newly-crowned head of global TV, has underlined the streamer’s commitment to British content in some of her first remarks after being elevated to her new role last month.
Bajaria oversees Netflix’s vast slate of original series from across the world and, after setting her top team on Tuesday, she told Deadline that the UK will remain a huge market under her watch.
Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has said that the company spent £400M ($520M) in the UK last year, making it the “biggest place that Netflix develops content outside the U.S.” Bajaria does not expect this level of spending to fall.
“We don’t break it out publicly by US vs outside, but I don’t see our investment in the UK changing in the near term,” she said over an email Q&A. “The UK is one of the best places in the world for film and TV production and I’m proud Netflix is a growing part of that ecosystem.”
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Bajaria added that “our members love British content,” pointing to shows including The Crown (which returns for Season 4 next month), Sex Education, and The Great British Baking Show, which is the title given to The Great British Bake Off in America.
If anything, Netflix has shown over the past year that it is willing to be increasingly aggressive to secure exclusive access to British content. The streamer signed an overall deal with The Crown creator Peter Morgan last year, while in July, it invested in Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’ new production outfit Broke And Bones in a first-of-its-kind deal for the streamer in the UK.
And only this week, Netflix secured the services of another The Crown creative, tying-up Suzanne Mackie’s new production company Orchid Pictures on an exclusive deal. Mackie will create new films and TV series for Netflix after working at Left Bank Pictures for nearly 12 years.
The streamer has gone about these deals stealthily and did not formally announce any of them. UK industry insiders have said that, though Netflix’s investment is broadly welcomed, there are some concerns that it is hoovering up talent to the detriment of local broadcasters and producers.
Bajaria’s executive reshuffle confirmed that Anne Mensah will remain head of series in the UK. The former Sky executive reports directly to Bajaria and is part of a largely unchanged bench of international executives.
Bajaria’s biggest move on her international team was to promote head of EMEA local language original series, Kelly Luegenbiehl, to head of global franchises. In her new role, she will grow existing shows into bigger universes, with her initial focus being on The Witcher, which is filmed in the UK.
Bajaria, the former VP of local language originals, told Deadline that she has banned her team from using the word “international” as she grows Netflix’s roster of non-English language originals, such as La Casa De Papel and Emmy-winning Unorthodox. She said the streamer has “strong, robust slates launching next year.”
“One of the great things that Netflix has done is unlock access for those who want to watch a series in a language other than their own, and we’re seeing a lot of interest and viewing for local language series like Barbarians from Germany and Dark Desire from Mexico,” she said.
“I wanted to erase this idea that there is US content and “international” content. All content is local for our members, and sometimes they want to watch in a language other than their own, which Netflix makes incredibly easy and satisfying.”