Netflix has been taking some beatings in the press lately. I’m tangentially interested, since Netflix has been a consistent resource of innovative scifi for the past few years. HollywoodReporter has a solid breakdown, but I want to focus on this particular piece:
These sources say Holland was the one who nurtured strong relationships with talent and took time to offer thoughtful development notes while still making people feel safe and supported in pursuing their passion projects. […] But a former insider says Sarandos’ volume strategy began to prove destructive to the culture and the quality of the service’s offerings. “Ted is great at managing growth, but the company hit a phase where they needed to manage differently,” this person says. Whether Holland’s spendy approach itself would have proved sustainable is a question, but several creators believe Netflix lost much of its early cachet by over-rotating to less expensive, less curated and less compelling — or, the company might say, broader — fare that simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed some subscribers.
You can say what you like about Netflix, but it’s clear from this insight that Netflix needs to re-read Ben Horowitz’ book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. They’re clearly in a transition period between peacetime and wartime leadership, and that churn is driving users away.
What’s the difference between peacetime and wartime leadership? Easy – check this ‘wartime CEO’ vs a ‘peacetime CEO’ list. Based on this article, Cindy Holland was a peacetime leader who knew how to leverage advantages while Ted Sarandos seems to be a wartime leader suited to defend against a stacked deck of competition. Both are valuable in the right context; competition will be vicious, but you can’t level your capitol with ‘friendly fire.’
No major insights beyond that – Netflix is a company, an ecosystem like any other. They don’t have the long, sordid history that Hollywood does and that’s why I still believe in them despite their imperfections. My hope is that they will learn from this teachable moment, and go from good to great, from great to brilliant.