Netflix’s longtime film chief, Scott Stuber, has announced he is leaving the streaming giant later this year to start his own production company focused on creating movies and TV shows. The move comes at a pivotal time for Netflix as it faces increased competition in the streaming space.
Stuber Instrumental in Building Netflix Film Operation
Stuber has been with Netflix since 2017 and has been instrumental in building up the company’s internal film production arm. Under his leadership, Netflix aggressively ramped up its original film output, releasing multiple high-profile titles per year featuring A-list stars.
In a statement, Stuber said:
“My time at Netflix has been life changing – professionally and personally. Ted, Reed and the board have been so supportive of me and our film team. I am incredibly proud of all we have accomplished together and I will miss my Netflix colleagues.”
During his tenure, Netflix films earned 36 Oscar nominations and won 10 awards. Hits released under Stuber’s watch include The Irishman, Marriage Story, and Don’t Look Up.
However, Netflix’s film strategy has not been without growing pains and criticism in recent years. As the company prioritized quantity in order to feed its voracious global subscriber base, some accused it of spreading its resources too thin at the expense of quality.
Departure Comes Amid Netflix’s Recent Struggles
Stuber’s departure caps a tumultuous six months for Netflix, underscored by its first subscriber losses in over a decade amid increased competition from rivals like Disney+ and HBO Max.
In addition to subscriber losses, Netflix has seen its stock price plummet over 65% from highs in November 2021 – evaporating over $200 billion in market capitalization.
The company has responded by announcing plans to introduce a lower-priced, ad-supported subscription tier by the end of 2023.
However, the streaming landscape has perhaps permanently shifted towards a more competitive, crowded marketplace. Netflix increasingly appears unable to rely solely on subscription revenue from streaming video on demand to its customer base across over 190 countries worldwide.
Launching New Venture Allows More Creative Freedom
In returning to his production roots, Stuber is likely drawn by the prospect of more creative freedom outside the constraints of Netflix’s rigid programming metrics.
Sources close to Stuber say his new venture will focus on developing premium mid-budget character-driven films, harking back to his early days as an executive producer on titles like Ted, Identity Thief, and Central Intelligence.
Stuber still has 18 months left on his contract with Netflix, but the company has apparently agreed to allow him to get his new endeavor up and running while slowly transitioning out of his current role overseeing Netflix films.
Mixed Reactions on What Stuber’s Exit Means for Netflix
Industry observers have mixed opinions on what Stuber’s exit means for the future of Netflix films.
On one hand, the timing of his departure while the company is already on the backfoot could signal further trouble ahead. One film financing executive speculated:
“If Scott leaving doesn’t underscore concerns about the viability of Netflix’s film business right now I don’t know what does.”
However, given Stuber still has well over a year left with Netflix, other experts believe this allows the streamer adequate time to reshape its film strategy without disruption.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said:
“Netflix has plenty of time to choose a successor who buys into co-CEOs Reed Hastings’ and Ted Sarandos’ vision for the next phase of original films.”
While Stuber helped elevate Netflix into a major force in film production, the company may now need someone at the helm more amenable to belt-tightening and scaling back budgets.
Table: Netflix Original Films Under Stuber
Below is a table highlighting some of Netflix’s most prominent original film releases under Scott Stuber’s oversight along with their production budgets and worldwide box office gross where available:
|WW Box Office
|Don’t Look Up
|The Gray Man
It shows how Netflix aggressively ramped up spending on original films in recent years with A-list talent attached under Stuber’s leadership. However, as the table shows, many of Netflix’s films do not end up grossing huge box office revenues to match their large budgets.
This unsustainability of budgets in relation to viewership and revenue, partly influenced by Stuber’s strategy, may be a key factor in why Netflix is rethinking its approach to films.
What Happens Next at Netflix?
For now, Netflix says it will conduct an executive search over the coming months to name Stuber’s replacement overseeing its film business.
In the interim, all of Stuber’s direct reports will shift to reporting directly to Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who oversees global TV and film at the company.
Sarandos called Stuber:
“An innovative and creative executive who helped deliver Netflix members many of their most beloved and celebrated films.”
But he, along with Netflix’s data-driven algorithms, will now take a greater role in greenlighting films and allocating budgets.
With Stuber serving out the remainder of his contract in more of an advisory capacity, Netflix has time yet again to pivot its strategy – this time perhaps moving away from lavish event films towards more cost-conscious independent fare.
Either way, the days of seemingly unlimited budgets for filmmakers under Stuber appear to be over. Whoever assumes the vacant role will face pressure to make films in a more financially disciplined manner. They will need to align with Netflix’s renewed focus on profitability as the streamer attempts to kickstart growth after a rough 2023.
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