Netflix dissolved its entire global brand marketing team this month for reasons yet known, insider sources told Adweek. If true, the internal shake-up comes at a pivotal time for the streaming giant, considering the announced departure of its chief marketing officer and Disney’s Fox acquisition.
In 2017, a small team was created under Netflix’s content and social department. The team was designed to help ramp up the streaming platform’s marketing efforts—coordinating both internally and with third-party agencies.
That team has now been disbanded, Adweek reported, citing internal sources who shared information on the condition of anonymity. While sources could not confidently make the connection, it’s hard to ignore the fact that CMO Kelly Bennett announced his retirement around the same time.
Aside from the loss of its CMO, Neflix’s restructuring may also be part of a plan to consolidate expenses. During a Q1 earnings call, newly appointed chief financial officer Spence Neumann told investors that the company’s move toward owned content has“put pressure on the cash flows of the business and the cash needs of the business.”
Neumann also indicated a shift from promoting 30-day free trials to encouraging paid subscriptions.
Bennett served as Netflix CMO for seven years—far longer than what is typical of other digital providers like Amazon, for which the average CMO tenure is just 29 months. During his time at the company, Netflix has invested in billboards, video games, experiential installations and even considered buying movie theaters.
During Bennett’s tenure, Netflix grew from 25.7 million paid streaming members in the third quarter of 2012 to 139 million worldwide at the end of 2018. The service even took home three Academy Awards for its original film Roma this year, winning best director, best cinematography and best foreign-language film.
The future of Netflix may lie in whoever becomes the new CMO, and the change couldn’t come at a more pivotal time for the brand. Disney just completed its acquisition of Fox and will launch its own OTT service, Disney+ later this year. Adding insult to injury, former Netflix director of original series Tehmina Jaffer is now serving as senior vice president of business affairs for Disney+.
All of Netflix’s original content will have to compete with established franchises within Disney, Marvel and Star Wars universes. Analysts at JP Morgan predict that Disney+ will eventually reach 160 million subscribers, surpassing Netflix’s 139 million.