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Bela Bajaria

Bela Bajaria

Bela Bajaria (Image credit: Jessica Chou/Netflix)

Perhaps no one made a bigger 2020 splash in streaming video than Bajaria.

Bajaria’s elevation to Netflix’s top programming job, displacing 17-year veteran Cindy Holland, stunned Hollywood. Bajaria then did Netflix’s version of the restructuring hitting Hollywood, work she’s still doing.

“I’m focused on building my global team so that we’re structured for the next five years,” she said in an email interview. “I wanted to put in place a structure that eliminated silos and leaned into everyone’s strengths. And I wanted it to be really user-friendly and clear for creators who want to work with us.”

As executives left, show pitchers were still confused. But the restructuring sets up Netflix for the global content battles to come. Simply put, as Hollywood studios’ streamers focus on winning the U.S. market, Netflix wants to win in nearly 200 countries.

The most important thing is that our stories are locally relevant ... and when we do that really well, they travel the world on Netflix."

Bela Bajaria

“We don’t talk about the U.S. and label everything else as ‘international,’” Bajaria said. “Everything really is local, no matter where you live. The most important thing is that our stories are locally relevant and authentic, and when we do that really well, they travel the world on Netflix. Books have done this for centuries, and we’ve seen music do it in recent years with hip-hop and K-pop. We have more members outside the U.S. than within, but there’s enormous opportunity in both in the coming years.” 

Bajaria will draw on her globetrotting background (a former Miss India USA, she lived in London until age nine) and international programming experience (including hit co-productions such as Star Trek: Discovery and Bodyguard). Among the 50-plus productions finished since the pandemic, Bajaria tabs two as must-watch: Cobra Kai’s season 3, and a reboot of durable French character Arsene Lupin.

What Bajaria isn’t doing is worrying about competition.

“We can’t focus on the road ahead if we’re looking over our shoulders,” she said. “So I try and stay focused on what’s best for Netflix and our members and not pay a lot of attention to what others are doing. It’s a competitive space, but it’s not zero sum.”