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Netflix promised good jobs at Tudum. Now, one of its teams has been laid off

The Netflix logo is seen on top of their office building in Hollywood, Calif. The streaming service has laid off some employees of its companion website called Tudum.
Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images
The Netflix logo is seen on top of their office building in Hollywood, Calif. The streaming service has laid off some employees of its companion website called Tudum.

Netflix has laid off some of its staff, many of them recently hired women of color. They were working on the streaming service's new fan-focused website, Tudum, named for the sound of the Netflix logo.

Tudumlaunched in December to take fans "behind the"streams," with articles about shows and films streamed on Netflix. For example, the site recently featured a story on the toddlers in the Japanese reality show Old Enough! There was a story with a "scoop" about the final episodes of Frankie and Grace, and a rundown of who's crushing on whom in the teen series Heartstopper. Tudum also included a story about the history of the food in Bridgerton Season 2, and another highlighting the show's slow-burn romantic moments.

Some fans are just learning now about Tudum, complaining Netflix didn't do much to promote the website. And some of the writers and editors who lost their jobs were told the layoffs were part of Netflix's plan to restructure its marketing department. The news comes shortly after announcements that the streamer has lost subscribers, and that its stocks took a nosedive.

When asked about the layoff, a spokesperson for Netflix wrote, "Our fan website Tudum is an important priority for the company."

The site is still up, but one team of 10-12 writers and editors were laid off. They worked on the culture and trend section of Tudum. They are experienced journalists who previously worked for Vulture, Vice, Teen Vogue and The New York Times. Some were book authors or had their own pop culture podcasts. Most, if not all of the team were Black, Latinx or Asian women.

"They went very out of their way to hire high level journalists of color who have quite a bit of name recognition and a lot of experience and talent. In some ways, they were just buying clout to lend credibility to their gambit," one member of the team told NPR, just hours after being let go. The member said they had signed a non-disclosure agreement when hired and so did not want their name used.

Everyone on the team had been recruited by Netflix with promises of editorial independence, exclusive interviews with Netflix talent, and secure, well-paying jobs.

It seemed like a dream job at first, they said, working with a diverse staff for good pay and loads of resources and opportunities.

"We were courted pretty aggressively. They sold us on the most amazing thing that you could want as a culture journalist or entertainment journalist. They just sold something that seemed impossible anywhere else," they said. "But the biggest selling point was the pay."

But in the short time the website has been around, they said the vision and the strategy changed. "They started tightening up little by little. And then just it became clear. It's a content marketing job, essentially. That would have been fine if from the get-go they made that clear."

Instead of being able to write about anything they wanted concerning Netflix content, they were told not to say anything deemed controversial, even if it was the subject of a documentary, for example. And any mention of films that aren't in the Netflix library were deleted from the site.

"They created a very jargony corporate environment in which everything is extremely positive. So instead of saying, 'No, don't do that,' they say, 'Do you think that's something we should be doing?' " they said. "Still, I'm really proud of a lot of the stories that were done under even those sort of tight parameters that were set and that constantly moved. A lot of great work was done because they hired extremely talented people. And so this more than anything reads as a lack of investment into a project that they didn't properly plan for or properly set up."

The writers and editors were full time or part time, on contract or on staff, and say they had no notice before losing their jobs. They were offered just two weeks of severance pay.

"People upended their lives for this," the ex-Tudum worker says, noting that just last month, many had been given promotions.

Now they're scrambling to find new jobs, sending out tweets asking for employment.

This isn't the first streamer to lay people off in the past week; something similar happened with CNN+, though in that case, it wasn't just one team, but the entire new streaming service.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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