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How Netflix Tolerate Errors

Former Vice President, Head of International Originals, at Netflix

IP Interview
Published on January 4, 2020

Why is this interview interesting?

  • How Netflix encourage risk taking and think about dealing with errors
Executive Bio

Erik Barmack

Former Vice President, Head of International Originals, at Netflix

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.

Interview Transcript

How does Netflix deal with and tolerate errors?

Just on the shell level, I don’t think people remember the bad movies or bad shows that don’t end up being watched. What you’re trying to do is engender a culture where you’re trying to get as many Narcos and The Crowns and Stranger Things and Club de Cuervos and Casa de Papels as possible. You should be wrong a certain percentage of the time. If you’re not, it probably means you are not taking enough risk or you are not moving quickly enough.

You are actually encouraged to have that percentage error rate, to stick at that risk level?

Yes. If somebody is in charge of movies and they have ten bombs in a row, then you would say that there is a process issue. Somehow, we are getting access to the wrong type of projects or our formulation of how we projected these things, is wrong. If you’re 50/50 or 70/30, you don’t really look at the three out of those 10 that didn’t work. You’re trying to say, how can I repeat the five, six or seven. It should get easier, if content is global and you have the audience where you can see what they like, over and over again and try to find what does and doesn’t work, for that audience.

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