Why did the powerful head of Netflix's movie studio just leave?

If you don't work in Hollywood, you may not know Scott Stuber's name. If you do work in movies, you almost certainly have heard of him: He's the guy in charge of Netflix's movie division, and for years, Netflix's movie division made a lot of movies, at a time when lots of studios were shrinking.

Now that's changing, and now Stuber isn't going to be at Netflix anymore: Netflix says he's leaving to start his own media company.

That's really big news.

In the next few days, you're almost certain to see some reporting teasing out what actually happened here. Because it would be very surprising if Stuber simply grew tired of holding one of the most powerful jobs in entertainment and wanted to hang up his own shingle.

The fact that the announcement comes a day before Netflix announces its Q4 earnings is also odd. As is the fact that Netflix has not named a successor.

In the meantime, it's worth teasing out the arc of Stuber's career at Netflix:

Netflix started releasing its own TV shows in 2013 and had immediate success with shows like "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black." But its approach to putting out its own movies was halting and scattershot, so the company hired Stuber, formerly of Universal, to ramp things up.

Stuber did just that, pushing out everything from little indies to romcoms to big blockbuster-style films like "Red Notice," starring Ryan Reynolds, and "6 Underground," also starring Ryan Reynolds. Along the way, he also courted Hollywood's old guard by giving the likes of Martin Scorsese huge budgets to make Oscar fare like "The Irishman."

But when Netflix hit a slump in 2022 and announced that it had lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade, the knives came for Stuber, at least outside the company.

When Hollywood folks wanted to diagnose the problems at the company, they often fixated on Stuber's seeming inability to deliver movies that resonated. The argument went something like: Even if "Red Notice" is Netflix's most popular film (which Netflix says is the case), can you remember a single scene or anything else about the movie? Did you ever talk to someone who saw "Red Notice" and liked it? Who is signing up — or staying at — Netflix to watch "Red Notice"?

And a few months after that, when Stuber's name was floated as a possible contender to run Amazon's movie business, he didn't seem long for the place.

But Netflix's brass insisted they were happy with Stuber and his work. Once, when I talked to a top Netflix executive about the company's foray into videogames, they told me that to make it work, they'd need to hire "a Scott Stuber" to help them break into that business, just like they had done with the real Stuber and the film business.

More recent Stuber signposts: A year ago, when former Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stepped away and handed his job to longtime lieutenants Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters, Stuber got a titular promotion — but was also seemingly passed over: Bela Bajaria, who had been the equivalent of Stuber for Netflix's TV business, was made chief content officer, meaning she now oversaw Stuber's business.

And last fall, Netflix, which had been boasting about releasing movies by the yard — in 2022, it put out one a week — now said those days were over. It was going to get … selective.

"We were growing a new studio. We'd only been doing this for a few years, and we were up against 100-year-old companies," Stuber told Variety to explain the pivot. "So you have to ask yourself, 'What is your business model?' And for a while, it was just making sure that we had enough. We needed volume."

Now, Stuber said, Netflix was going to cut its output in half so it could make better things.

And now Stuber's gone. Asked for comment, a Netflix spokesperson supplied quotes from Stuber, Sarandos, and Bajaria saying nice things about each other.

It's possible that none of this — the personnel moves, the strategy shift, the maybe-looking-around-at-other-gigs — had anything to do with Stuber's departure. But I can't wait to hear more about it.

Read the original article on Business Insider