Former Universal Television President Bela Bajaria is joining Netflix as of November 1.
As vice president, content, Bajaria will lead the team focused on TV and film licensing from major U.S. studios as well as on co-production relationships with major U.S. networks. She also will oversee a new team that’s developing original unscripted programs for the streaming service.
“Bela is a great creative television executive with broad experience and deep industry relationships,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “Having worked closely with her on Master of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we know we have found the perfect executive to lead this new effort.”
The move is just the latest in what’s perceived to be a Hollywood brain drain, with 21st Century Fox recently filing a lawsuit that claims Netflix broke the law by hiring two mid-level executives who were under contract
Netflix has been on a hiring spree in the last two years, nabbing executives at a rate that has inspired more than just grumbling — it prompted a lawsuit by 21st Century Fox, which claims that Netflix broke the law when it poached two mid-level execs who were under contract. Netflix also has hired execs from AMC, Broadway Video, Chernin Group, Fox 21, Gaumont, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, Universal TV, The CW and others.
Netflix also has been in the news this week on rumors that Disney, Apple and other companies were potentially kicking its tires. On Wednesday, Netflix’s share price closed at $106.28, the highest the stock has been since April, when it hit $110.42.
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As president of Universal TV, Bajaria worked with talent, executive producers and writers to develop and sell shows to sibling network NBC as well as to other distributors, including Netflix. As Sarandos mentioned, Universal TV produces both Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Netflix also has gotten into the co-production game, working with CBS on the new version of Star Trek, Discovery, to premiere on CBS All Access next spring; Canada’s eOne on ABC’s new drama, Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland; and Paramount TV’s The Alienist.
Bajaria also helped develop such Universal-produced series as Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox and Hulu’s The Mindy Project, NBC’s Superstore and A&E’s Bates Motel, among many others. For this broadcast network television season, she worked on such shows as CBS’ Pure Genius and NBC’s The Good Place. She also worked with Netflix to create Gypsy, starring Naomi Watts, which will premiere next year.
Bajaria was let go from Universal last spring with two years left on her contract, which surprised many in the industry. According to Variety, Bajaria’s relationship with NBC soured after what was perceived to be a lackluster upfront season with only seven scripted series sold, down from 12 last season. Six of those are for NBC, but only one, The Good Place, premiered on NBC this fall. On the other hand, Bejaria had quite a bit of success selling shows to non-NBCUniversal-owned networks, several of which are listed above.
Prior to running Universal Television, Bajaria was a longtime executive at CBS, where she was senior vice president of cable programming for CBS Television Studios and senior vice president of movies and miniseries for the CBS network. She also oversaw CBS’ Sunday Night Movie franchise for a decade.
READ MORE: Variety, CNN Money
[Image courtesy of Variety]