It’s the end of an era in streaming. Reed Hastings, co-founder of video-streaming pioneer Netflix, is stepping down as co-CEO, kicking himself upstairs to be executive chair (as he was already chair, he’s giving up more than he’s gaining). Greg Peters, chief operating officer and a 15-year veteran of Netflix, was promoted to be Ted Sarandos’ equal as co-CEO. Those two have an unenviable task. While Netflix retains its edge in streaming, growth in that area is becoming much harder to achieve generally. In the fourth quarter reported today, for instance, Netflix reported better than expected subscriber growth while revenue stagnated. In other words, Netflix’s new $6.99 a month tier that comes with ads brought in cheapskate customers but did little for the top line.
Sarandos and Peters have to navigate this environment with Hastings looking over their shoulder. Sounds a bit like Andy Jassy’s situation at Amazon, where Jeff Bezos became executive chair in 2021, although judging by social media posts, he’s leaving Jassy alone and spending a lot of time having fun. Hastings will become less visible—he won’t appear on quarterly earnings calls in future, he revealed today—but you can imagine him grabbing the wheel back if things go haywire. Just consider what happened after Hastings promoted Sarandos to be his co-CEO in mid-2020. As we outlined in this piece last year, Hastings got more involved in outside activities, particularly philanthropy. He wrote a book about Netflix’s corporate culture. Employees thought he seemed less engaged. But he quickly reengaged as Netflix’s growth slowed sharply in 2021. Most notably, he asserted his presence by declaring on an earnings call last April that Netflix planned to introduce an advertising tier, catching insiders by surprise.