EXCLUSIVE: (UPDATED WITH HFPA RESPONSE) As the beleaguered
Hollywood Foreign Press Association pledges to reform itself,
Netflix has declared that its will not be working with the
Golden Globes group until it gets its act together, to put it
“Like many in our industry, we’ve been waiting for today’s announcement in the hope that you would acknowledge the breadth
of issues facing the HFPA and provide a clear roadmap for
change,” the streamer’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos wrote in a letter
Thursday to the HFPA’s Leadership Committee that Deadline has
The correspondence from the top exec came on May 6 after around
75 of the insular HFPA’s 86 members voted for an inclusion and
overhaul proposal the group’s board put forth at the beginning
of this week. The HFPA has been scrambling since it was revealed
just before February 28’s semi-virtual Golden Globes that the
freewheeling group had zero Black members. Amid a series of
stumbles and critiques since, the HFPA saw racially offensive
remarks from a former president and newly minted Diversity and
Inclusion advisor Dr. Shaun Harper and fixer supreme/Scandal
inspiration Judy Smith both resign in frustration last month.
In that context and under pressure from Comcast-owned NBC, which
televises the Globes, the HFPA was hoping this week would be
when things started to turn around. They may have been a bit too
“Today’s vote is an important first step,” Sarandos noted in Thursday’s letter to HFPA brass. “However, we don’t believe
these proposed new policies — particularly around the size and
speed of membership growth — will tackle the HFPA’s systemic
diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear
standards for how your members should operate.
“So we’re stopping any activities with your organization until
more meaningful changes are made.”
“We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want
real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create
an equitable and inclusive industry,” Sarandos added in
conclusion. “But Netflix and many of the talent and creators we
work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address
these crucial issues with urgency and rigor.”
While calibrated and parsed, Sarandos’ letter putting the HFPA
on notice and turning off the journo-run nonprofit’s tap to one
of the biggest sources of talent and content has to hit where it
Or, let’s translate that into raw math for the annual Globes
ceremony, which NBC pays $60 million a year to air: Netflix
dominated this year’s Golden Globes nominations among studios
and streamers with 42 overall and came away with six wins — four
for its drama series The Crown, along with wins for The Queen’s
Gambit and Chadwick Boseman’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black
Bottom. That total was triple the wins from any other
distributor at the HFPA’s 78th annual event.
Netflix declined to comment when contacted by Deadline about
Sarandos’ letter, or other discussions with the HFPA.
The HFPA did respond (eventually), in their own way.
“We hear your concerns about the changes our association needs
to make and want to assure you that we are working diligently on
all of them,” current HFPA president Ali Sar wrote to Sarandos
later Friday. “We would love to meet with you and your team so
we can review the very specific actions that are already in the
works,” he added. “An open dialogue would help to ensure that we
are addressing these concerns as quickly as possible.” Sar then
went on to challenge several of Sarandos and Netflix’s claims
about the state of the organization and its reforms – Read the
full HFPA response below.
In other conversations over the past few days and in an addendum
to Sarandos’ letter, Netflix has advocated that the HFPA adopted
a definable set of awards-season rules and a clear and immediate
code of ethics, I hear. Unlike the current nonplussed attitude
the HFPA takes, with press conferences closely connected to
Globes nominations, gifts, member selfies, and other grifter-ish
methods, the streamer has suggested something similar to what
AMPAS and the TV Academy do. Such a written-down playbook of
sorts could begin to wash off the taint the HFPA has in terms of transparency and governance.
Accordingly, Netflix has also recommended that diversity and
inclusion be part of the 78-year-old group’s mission statement
as part of a commitment to the process of an HFPA that looks
more like Hollywood. To enlarge that aim practically, the
streamer has urged the HFPA to think bigger and faster.
Specifically, Netflix believes the group’s plan to add 20 new
members by the end of the year and fatten up its total
membership by 50% is too little too late. Oddly, according to
correspondence we have seen, Netflix refer to the process
occurring over three years, while the HFPA has said it will take
no longer than 18 months. Nonetheless, streamer co-run by Reed
Hastings feels the HFPA should grow to more than 300 members to
truly enact change and inclusion, and that the timing should be
in a matter of months, not over a year, sources close to the
talks tell me.
Once again, the clock is ticking for the HFPA.
Earlier today 100 global PR firms said publicly that they would
“continue to refrain from any HFPA sanctioned events, including
press conferences, unless and until these issues are illuminated
in detail with a firm commitment to a timeline that respects the
looming 2022 season reality.”
Now Netflix is taking the speak-softly-and-carry-a-big- stick
approach, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt – and that may carry
all the weight in the world, finally.
So, with Time’s Up, top flacks and the National Association of
Black Journalists all already expressing their displeasure with
the HFPA and its attempt at reform, and NBC putting the pressure
on behind the scenes, who will be next to stand up now that
Netflix has added its voice to the chorus?
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