A little over two years after Bela Bajaria joined Netflix as VP Content, she is taking on a new role at the streaming giant. She will lead international non-English TV originals — scripted, unscripted, comedy — in all international markets where Netflix is available, excluding Asia but including India where Bajaria’s family is from.
Netflix veteran Erik Barmack, who served as VP International Originals for Latin America, EMEA and India, shepherding original series and other content in those territories, is leaving to launch his own production company.
Bajaria had been in charge of original unscripted series, talk shows and scripted series that are co-licensed with traditional studios. All English-language series — scripted and unscripted — will now shift to VP Original Content Cindy Holland, with Bajaria focusing on non-English-language ones. (Holland already had been overseeing English-language international series that air as Netflix originals outside of the UK, such as The Crown and Sex Education.)
International content has been key to streaming platforms’ growth and has emerged as the new battleground, with Netflix and Amazon often engaging in bidding wars over locally produced content, especially in burgeoning markets like India. With 80% of Netflix’s new subscriber signups coming from foreign territories the last few quarters, the Internet network has significantly increased its investment in non-English TV originals. Its main competitors seeking global footprint are doing the same, with the domestic streaming wars spreading oversees as Internet networks are looking to reach the majority of the world’s 7.5 billion population, only 350 million of which are native English speakers.
Netflix has had several crossover non-English-language hits already, shepherded by Barmack, including Spain’s Elite, watched by more than 20 million member households; Turkey’s Protector, viewed by more than 10 million; Mexico’s Casa de las Flores; Germany’s Dark; and India’s Sacred Games. To help those shows find a global audience, Netflix offers non-English originals in up to 10 languages dubbed and subtitled in more than 25 languages.
“We have an amazing opportunity to bring stories from different cultures and in different languages to audiences all around the world,” Bajaria said. “Netflix is just scratching the surface on what’s possible and I could not be more excited to get started.”
Bajaria, who remains VP Content, joined Netflix in October 2016. She was tasked with establishing Netflix as a player in the unscripted space and forging a stronger relationship with traditional studios by finding new ways to do business with them. She spearheaded the introduction of a new co-licensing model, under which Netflix is collaborating with existing studios on series that air on other linear or digital networks domestically, with Netflix taking first-run global distribution in as many territories as available.
Some of the series Netflix has picked up internationally under that model include new breakout You, which became an instant hit on the streaming platform and will be a full-fledged Netflix original in Season 2. Others incldue Riverdale, Black Lightning, Star Trek: Discovery, Good Girls and the UK hit Bodyguard.
“Like many showrunners I’ve wanted to work with Bela for years, but it wasn’t until she came to Netflix that I got to experience first hand and be the beneficiary of her creative support for storytellers and bold storytelling,” said Greg Berlanti, co-creator/executive producer of You and executive producer of Riverdale, Black Lightning as well as Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. “I can say without any hesitancy that our show You wouldn’t still be on the air or what it is without her and her team’s steadfast partnership.”
Over the past couple of years, Netflix also successfully entered the unscripted arena launched several hit series, including the Queer Eye reboot, Nailed It and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The Internet network won its first reality series Emmy last fall for Queer Eye.
“Bela Bajaria is an incredible creative talent — bringing global hits like You, Nailed It and Queer Eye to Netflix,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said. “She is the perfect person to build on our international efforts, helping to bring the world’s stories to the world whatever the language”.
Barmack, who has been at Netflix for eight years, is credited as the architect of the network’s international originals strategy.
“Erik has been transformational for Netflix,” Sarandos said. “Hits such as Dark, Sacred Games and Elite helped put us on the map and we wish him great success with his next chapter.”
Said Barmack, “Leading the Netflix international originals team these last few years has been the adventure of a lifetime — I couldn’t be more proud of everything we achieved and wish the team all the best for the future.”
Before joining Netflix, Bajaria served as president of Universal Television where she oversaw the development and production of such series as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Master of None.