Bennett, 46, said in an interview that it’s the “ideal time for me to leave.” He said the decision was his personal choice and that CEO Reed Hastings hadn’t asked him to depart. “Given the success we’re at today — the way we’re performing as a team — it’s the right legacy for me to leave while we’re at our very best,” he told Variety.
After he leaves Netflix, Bennett expects to be semi-retired. “I likely will never work full-time again. That’s not something I’m particularly interested in,” Bennett said. “I’m definitely going to spend some more time with my family,” noting he has three children (ages 11, 14 and 17). He added that he’ll look to pursue roles in the non-profit sector or teaching, and possibly serve on some boards.
At the end of October 2018, Bennett executed Netflix stock trades that netted him $3.36 million, according to SEC filings.
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Netflix has commenced a search for a new CMO. Bennett said he will remain with the company for an interim transition period and is committed to staying at Netflix through the end of the year if necessary.
“Kelly Bennett has been absolutely transformational for us as we expanded our member base in the U.S. and globally, and particularly as we transitioned into being a leader in original series and films,” Hastings said in a statement. “He has been a source of inspiration both inside Netflix and in presenting our brand to the world, and we are thankful for his enormous contributions.”
During Bennett’s tenure at Netflix, the company grew from 25.7 million paid streaming members in the third quarter of 2012 to 139 million worldwide at the end of 2018. In recent years, Netflix has dramatically cranked up marketing spending: Marketing costs grew 65% in 2018, to $2.37 billion, and analysts expect that to grow this year by 22%, to nearly $2.9 billion.
“When I joined in 2012, we were mostly a tech company,” Bennett said. “Today, we’re a global entertainment programmer at significant scale.”
Bennett’s pending exit comes after another recent C-suite shuffle at Netflix. David Wells, a 14-year veteran of the company, said last summer he would step down as CFO. In January, Netflix named Spencer Neumann, formerly CFO of Activision Blizzard, as its new chief financial officer.
Meanwhile, Netflix said Wednesday that Erik Barmack, Netflix’s VP of international originals for Latin America, EMEA and India, is leaving the company after eight years to start his own production company. Netflix named Bela Bajaria, previously Netflix’s VP of content acquisition, to head international non-English TV originals.
Bennett started at Netflix as CMO in August 2012 after nine years at Warner Bros., where he most recently was VP of interactive, worldwide marketing, where he led international digital campaigns for the studio’s movies. Before that, Bennett ran digital marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and worked in promotion and business development at the company.
Prior to joining Warner Bros. in 2003, he held executive positions at Dow Jones International and Ignition Media and was a partner in online marketing agency Cimex Media. The Canada native holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.