In the weeks since the Great Netflix Correction, Ted Sarandos has taken it on the chin from the business media that fawned over Netflix for a decade. Still, it’s a bit surprising that he so quickly ran to Maureen Dowd for his more than 4,500 word quasi-mea culpa. Maybe it helped? I surveyed a bunch of savvy media experts and got wildly different responses.
“Smart choice,” one veteran texted me. “Better for him to be on his front foot,” said another. “Was time to stop taking shit,” said yet another. “He covers a lot of territory here,” one said, meaning that when Ted is asked in the months ahead about Dave Chappelle or the advertising pivot or even the fate of lieutenants Scott Stuber and Bela Bajaria, he can now point to this piece, which sort of backs them (“I would say we are always reaching for the highest performance,” co-C.E.O. Reed Hastings says, “but our content is not why the current slowdown is happening”) while leaving room for personnel changes if needed.
But I keep thinking about the transparent strategy at play here, and the sentiment from other savvy observers was that this was all a bit much, and way too soon, especially during what should be a heads-down, focus-on-the-content moment for an embattled company. And the fact that Sarandos is even discussing in The New York Times whether he can pass his own ridiculous “Keeper Test” is already a loss. This piece, to me, is a fascinating window on the Netflix psyche: An overcompensation by innovative executives that are not used to bad press, care very deeply about their positioning among peers (and the elites that read the Times), and seem to be relying on a crisis P.R. handbook: