Netflix Kneecapped Its Own Efforts to Champion Diverse Shows, Axed Writers Say

Netflix Kneecapped Its Own Efforts to Champion Diverse Shows, Axed Writers Say
An event hosted by Netflix's Strong Black Lead team in June 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Charley Gallay, Getty Images)

Alongside 150 full time employees Netflix axed Tuesday, dozens of contract writers were shown the door. Bitter tweets flooded in after the job cuts were announced. Many of those writers were part of Netflix’s large-scale diversity communications initiatives, and they said that the struggling streaming giant had left those departments, like the staffers who used to work there, gutted.

Contractors across all of Netflix’s diverse social media channels got the ax Tuesday, including the Black community-focused Strong Black Lead, Latinx-focused Con Todo, Asian American-focused Golden, and the LGBTQ-focused Most. Multiple writers were likewise laid off from Netflix’s fandom blog Tudum, which had already seen a prior round of layoffs last month. Many of these select social media initiatives were only a few months old — Golden had only been introduced in January — but in that short time the platforms were appreciated by their select communities. Sites like The Hollywood Reporter lauded Strong Black Lead for allowing Black voices to amplify content that appealed to the community while at the same time bringing conversations about Black-focused media into the mainstream.

Business Insider reported the figure was somewhere between 60 and 70, though the exact number is unknown. Some of those laid off tweeted they were told of their ouster over Zoom. Others took to Twitter to say they didn’t find out about the layoffs until they discovered their Netflix Slack accounts had been cut off.

A Netflix spokesperson said it will continue operating those social accounts with writers from people in those communities. The spokesperson declined to offer a total number of contract employees let go but said in a statement that cuts are affecting the breadth of Netflix’s social media channels and not just the four, adding “We are making changes to how we support our publishing efforts, including bringing some of this important work in-house.”

In a previous statement given to Gizmodo about the full-time layoffs, Netflix said employee cuts were not due to performance but “slowing revenue growth,” adding they were “working hard to support [the cut employees] through this very difficult transition.” Netflix lost subscribers for the first time in a decade last quarter, causing its stock to tank.

Myles Worthington — Netflix’s previous head of global audiences, brand and editorial management — championed the creation of these diversity teams over several years. He left the company earlier this month, and on May 17 he took to Twitter to lament the end of the teams he “built from nothing.” “A few” individuals on the diversity teams remain, according to Worthington, but the ex-Netflix head did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for further comment.

Others spoke fondly of what they were able to accomplish writing for Netflix, especially promoting content that appealed to groups that have struggled to be represented in media.

In addition to the s several of its planned animation ventures were axed, Netflix also fired around 70 part time workers from its animation studio. Variety reported based on unnamed sources from Netflix that planned animated projects like the animated adaptation of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby and the Tui T. Sutherland’s children’s book adaptation of Wings of Fire were being cancelled. Netflix has said this decision was about creative considerations, not having to do with cost.