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Bela Bajaria on Netflix’s “Massive Local Impact” Strategy


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Bela Bajaria, VP of global TV at Netflix, outlined the importance of authentic local stories to the streamer in her keynote at APOS, noting, “the focus is always massive local impact.”

Bajaria highlighted the “extraordinarily empowered local decision-makers” at Netflix offices across the globe. “They can make decisions in their own time zones, in their own countries and in their own language. That, to me, is where you see how dynamic the company is and how quickly we can move.”

On the increasingly crowded streaming landscape, Bajaria noted, “I think it’s important to know the lay of the land, to know what people are doing, but I don’t spend too much time worrying about the competition. I think it’s hard to continue to move forward if you’re always looking over your shoulder. We’re staying true to our culture and what we’ve created and continuing to build on that.”

Asked about the growing interest in non-English-language content, Bajaria commented, “I’m so excited on a personal level and a professional level about the growth of this. I’m an Indian woman who immigrated to the U.S., whose family is from East Africa, who was born in London. Growing up in the U.S., I did not see myself on screen. Traditionally, Hollywood has exported stories around the world. We are exporting local, authentic stories and shows everywhere around the world. All of these stories are different points of view, a different lens, and a very specific cultural lens.”

She went on to note the increasing popularity of anime and Korean dramas in the U.S., as well as breakout shows like Barbarians from Germany, Who Killed Sara? from Mexico, La Casa de Papel from Spain, Space Sweepers from Korea and Lupin from France. “Each of those global hits is from very different countries. So it’s not just here’s one country’s shows that travel. This is local storytellers and local talent in front of and behind the camera in their own local language traveling on a global scale. That’s been very rewarding to see in the last 12 months.”

Success in local markets like Korea comes from “being part of the local ecosystem,” Bajaria said. “We’re not trying to come in and do American things in Asia. It really is working with local talent. The shows that have been the most successful globally have been the most authentic and the most specific. We’re not trying to make an international show, we’re trying to tell a true vision of that story. To do that and do it well, you have to have a local team on the ground who has great taste and great relationships, and knows how to back those visions.”

On the strategy for India, Bajaria noted, “Sometimes when we’re in a country and we make the first couple of shows, people externally and even sometimes internally perceive us as just premium or edgy dramas. We want to please many more members than that.” The new slate of originals, with some 40 titles, includes stand-up comedy, family dramas, romantic comedies and more, Bajaria said. “We want to have everybody’s favorite show. We want shows you can co-view with your family. We want different tones of shows and to have a wider breadth.”

“Massive local impact” is always the goal with original content in local markets, Bajaria said. “We want to make sure we are super-serving the local audience. People sometimes think we want to make [a show] global or international. The most important thing is we make it the most authentic and specific vision in that country and it has the most local impact and people love it in that country. If people love it in that country, usually other people will love it too.”

On the strategy for the years ahead as Netflix builds on its global presence, Bajaria said, “The strategy is always going to be, we want to have the best shows. If the best shows are original shows, that’s great. If the best shows are a combination of acquisitions and partnerships and co-productions or pre-buys and originals, then that’s what we do. The other goal is in each country, we want to be a part of the creative community. We want to shoot locally with local talent and we always want to be part of the ecosystem. And there will be new places we start making more original content in. It was only a year and a half ago we started doing originals in Africa. We’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many great storytellers in so many parts of the world. There are great stories that can be told on a global scale in so many places.”











About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on mdaswani@worldscreen.com.

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