Erik was responsible for the strategy, team management, and production of Netflix Originals outside of the US. He managed over 40 production and finance executives and led the production of various critically acclaimed shows such as Dark and Casa de las Flores. He was a key figure in scaling Netflix globally to regions such as India, Mexico, and Europe where Netflix now produces tens of local language shows. Erik joined Netflix in 2011 as Global Content Director after spending six years leading ESPN Business Development. He left Netflix in April 2019 to launch his own development and production house of shows outside the US. Read moreView Profile Page
In 2011, I was coming from Disney and ESPN and I very much liked those roles, but working for ESPN in sports, it was, literally, the biggest of the biggest. If you were working in digital media and doing disruptive things, I think it was interesting to the company at the time, for sure. But it wasn’t really going to move the needle, compared to big carriage deals and huge sports’ rights packages and all of that. When I interviewed at Netflix, what struck me is that everything that was part of the value proposition that they were developing, had to be disruptive.
How do you change the rules of distribution for Hollywood films and movies? At that time, there were just the inklings of whether you could build to doing original content. All of those things, from as simple as digital distribution to whether consumers were going to be interested in on-demand platforms, were largely unproven.
I met a bunch of smart people who were all trying to answer questions that were largely unknown. I think it was super interesting, compared to other media companies, at the time.
In the culture deck, all of those things were designed, from Reed’s perspective, as more of a Silicon Valley start up than anything else. There was a lot of tech culture bigged into the DNA of the company, of trial and error, of being data heavy, of doing things and asking for forgiveness, all that sort of stuff.
For the most part, yes. I think it’s an incredibly bold company, where one way of looking at it is, the biggest line item is content. For the most part, relative to most other companies in Hollywood, decisions are very distributed. When I was there, I could make decisions on hundreds of shows being commissioned, without really needing a committee to sign off on things. The same thing was true for people who were building platforms or people who were starting relationships with carriers and VNOS and all that.
I would say, it’s harder to keep the purely entrepreneurial spirit, as you get bigger. When I was there, at its starting point, there were a couple of hundred people and we were just in the US and had just launched in Canada, as a streaming service. When you’re global and you have regional centres and you have a certain size, it’s harder to be as nimble. On a relative basis, it’s still very entrepreneurial and disruptive.
It’s more like, what systems are not in place. If you are going to make a show in Italy, that’s a fraction of the budget of a show in Hollywood and you’re wrong, what’s the cost of being wrong? How many people really need to opine on that decision? Is it better just to see a number of people take their shots and, if people aren’t making good decisions over time, then that’s one thing. It’s more getting rid of the false comfort that committees are going to be better at making decisions than individuals.
Yes and I also think, with just the scale of what Netflix is trying to accomplish, this year they are launching more shows and films, on an original basis, than days in the year. To do that well, you need a lot of people making decisions. On the flip side, if you are a Hollywood premium network and you just have four or five shows, those shows really need to be right. They also need to be on brand and all of those things.
I understand the flip side too, which is that if you are doing something that is much more boutique, you can’t accept failure as easily.