In 2020 and early 2021, a theme of Netflix’s messaging was its naked ambition to become like Disney, if not overtake it.
In September 2020, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings told the New York Times that two of the best authors in the entertainment industry were Neal Gabler, who wrote the definitive biography of Walt Disney, and Bob Iger, who had been running Disney. In February 2021, Hastings told investors that Netflix’s long-term aim is to beat Disney at animation: “We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. A long way to go just to catch them.” (NOTE: Brandon Katz wrote a good article on this for The Observer last year, “Netflix Not-So-Secretly Wants to Be Disney, But Is It Placing the Right Bets?”)
An eye-opening report from Drew Taylor of The Wrap emerged last week, revealing that a recent executive firing brought “perhaps an inevitable end to a deeply chaotic period for Netflix Animation, particularly its Kids & Family division, which saw a boom of talent and creativity give way to corporate pressure, mixed messages and accusations of ‘staged data.’”
The story reveals serious flaws in Netflix’s execution of its long-term objective of beating Disney in kids animation. After last week's stock price drop, it is worth asking the question:
Assuming Netflix’s stock price and perception from Wall Street would be different with better execution around its Disney objective - and also, given Netflix’s keeper test - does Netflix require a change in management, starting at the top?
There is no one problem with the animation story. But if there was one, it’s the operational disconnect between the stated objective of chasing Disney and the available evidence of how Netflix has executed against it. The Wrap story describes a Kids & Family ...