- Netflix has disbanded the global brand marketing team that operated under its broader content and social media department, Adweek reported, citing multiple anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
- The dissolution of the unit occurred around the departure of long-time CMO Kelly Bennett earlier this month, Adweek said. Bennett, who joined the company seven years ago, has remained at Netflix as the company searches for his replacement.
- The scope of employees affected by the dissolution of the global brand marketing team and the reasoning behind the move are unclear. The department, which formed two years ago to support a push to step up Netflix's advertising efforts, was relatively small, according to Adweek. Netflix did not respond to the publication's requests for comment.
The timing of the news suggests that Netflix is retooling its marketing strategy to prep for a more fiercely competitive streaming market and as it seeks a new chief marketer to replace Bennett. Netflix also recently lost its director of original series Tehmina Jaffer, per Adweek, who moved over to Disney+. The forthcoming streaming service from Disney will likely be a sizable foe for Netflix to grapple with in the lead-up and aftermath to Disney+'s expected debut later this year.
Disney's new offering encompasses the entirety of the entertainment giant's catalog, including popular properties like the Marvel movies and the "Star Wars" franchise. It is being positioned as cheaper than Netflix, and is forecast by JPMorgan analysts to eventually draw up to 160 million subscriptions, which is more than Netflix's total subscriber base, according to The Street. Netflix also continues to compete closely with existing streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, the latter of which Disney now has a majority stake in following the completion of a merger with Fox earlier this week.
Netflix upped its marketing spend by 65% in 2018 to $2.37 billion and analysts forecast it will increase that figure by 22% this year to reach nearly $2.9 billion. However, executives have previously signaled that they would prefer to rely less on traditional advertising. On a call with analysts discussing earnings in January 2018, CEO Reed Hastings, while reinforcing the value of earned and paid media, said "the Holy Grail dream is that the service was so good at promoting the new content in such relevant ways that we wouldn't have to spend externally."
Netflix has undertaken new marketing initiatives of late, such as a campaign that calls for more diversity in the entertainment industry and showcases the women and people of color who lead several of its programs, like Uzo Aduba of "Orange is the New Black." However, the platform has at the same time received criticism for failing to market other originals with diverse casts, namely "One Day at a Time," which Netflix announced would not be returning for a fourth season earlier this month. The series about a Latino family was a critical success and retained a devoted fan base, but skeptics believe Netflix mishandled promoting it and botched the messaging around its cancellation, including through a tone-deaf Twitter post.
Other recent executive departures at Netflix include CFO David Wells, who left after 14 years and was replaced by Spencer Neumann. Erik Barmack, Netflix's VP of international originals for Latin America, EMEA and India, also announced plans to leave earlier this month after eight years with the streamer, Variety reported.