Netflix global TV head discusses Canadian ambitions

BANFF '22: Bela Bajaria announced the launch of a development program for Canadian writers through its Toronto office and discussed Netflix's "back to basics" content strategy.

Netflix’s head of global TV Bela Bajaria said the streamer is committed to staying in Canada following the launch of its Toronto office and local content team.

“The team has been going coast to coast… and we want to make sure we tell great, locally authentic Canadian stories,” said Bajaria in a summit session at the Banff World Media Festival on Tuesday (June 14), adding that “very local and very specific” content has been the “secret sauce” for the streamer’s successes, including France’s Lupin and South Korea’s Squid Game.

The exec announced Netflix Canada has launched a development program for underrepresented writers to hone their projects to pitch to the market, titled Advancing Voices: Netflix Canada Creator Program.

The program gives seven selected writers the opportunity to come to the Netflix Canada offices in Toronto in July to meet with the content team and participate in a three-month paid development process. Following that, writers will formally pitch their projects to Netflix Canada. The program is part of Netflix’s five-year $100 million global Fund for Creative Equity.

The selected writers are Toronto-based comedian and filmmaker Bita Joudaki, writer/producer James Sanders, Honey Bee director Rama Rau, Blood Quantum director and Mi’gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, Edmonton-born and Vancouver-based Adam Hussein, and writing duo Jabbari Weekes and Tichaona Tapambwa.

Bajaria also addressed Netflix’s recent subscriber loss in Q1 2022, stating the streamer is “getting back to the basics” when it comes to its focus on making content. “We’re not doing some radical shift in our business; we’re not having a big transitional phase,” she said, adding that it’s a good thing to be “the underdog.”

She said Netflix is still expecting to spend $17 billion on content in 2022, keeping a focus on local projects. However, Bajaria noted that due to the subscriber dip, Netflix has “slowed the growth of content,” but has no plans to reduce content.

During the session she announced an unscripted competition series inspired by Squid Game, currently in the works, produced by Studio Lambert and The Garden in the U.K.

Photo of Bela Bajaria by Kristian Bogner Photography