How Netflix Failed, Then Fired, Staff It Hired Just Months Ago

“You’re going to see a bunch of tweets from people laid off at Netflix/Tudum today,” writer Nichole Perkins tweeted on Thursday, “so please hire us all.”

Perkins was referring to the sudden decision by Netflix to restructure its marketing team and end the current version of Tudum, the fan-service website it had set up just months prior and for which it had contracted a dozen or so staff. Around 25 staff and contractors in total were laid off on Thursday.

Even though the streaming giant has a “notoriously fickle anyone-can-get-fired-at-any-time credo,” as the Hollywood Reporter has described it, the speed and ruthlessness with which the Tudum staff, many of whom were women of color, were chewed up and spat out has left both them and outside observers shocked. The ambitious project had been frustratingly set up to fail from the start, with little inside support or marketing from Netflix despite big promises, former Tudum employees said.

“I’m extremely resentful and very angry. I think what they’ve done is evil,” one former Tudum staffer, who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons, told BuzzFeed News. “They’ve no regard for the livelihoods of these people they recruited to be a part of this team. Some people have left union jobs to be on this team.”

On Twitter, writer Sara David shared her shock and sadness at being let go with an offer of two weeks’ severance pay after only a few months of employment. She had previously left a union job at Vice that she said had 18 weeks of severance pay. “I’m devastated,” David wrote.

A second Tudum staffer who spoke with BuzzFeed News, and also wanted to remain anonymous publicly, said they felt caught unaware and deceived about the extent to which Netflix was supporting the project. “‘We were told, ‘Tudum is fine. It’s so new. They know you need time to figure it out and make it a success,’” this second staffer said. “So for them to turn around a month later and get rid of us, that’s misleading.”

But behind the story of Tudum’s sudden collapse are bigger issues both within Netflix and the streaming industry more broadly.

The company’s cost-cutting comes after an earnings call earlier this month revealed alarming figures, with Netflix losing 200,000 subscribers in the year’s first quarter — the first quarterly subscriber loss in over a decade and a stark contrast to the 2.5 million new subscribers it was hoping to add. With revenue growth also falling, Netflix said it was considering changes to its model, potentially even adding an ad-supported subscription for a lower price.

(We should note some dark irony here: BuzzFeed News is also reducing staff following a disappointing earnings report from our newly public parent company.)

A Netflix spokesperson said that Tudum would continue to exist in some capacity. “Our fan website Tudum is an important priority for the company,” the spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Jinggo B Danuarta

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