Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos cites Hollywood writer’s strike as reason why he won’t accept PEN ‘Business Visionary Award’

Ted Sarandos (L) snaps a group selfie at Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Special Screening and Panel Discussion at National Museum Of African American History & Culture on May 2, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images for Netflix

Citing the current Hollywood writers strike, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos will not be attending next week’s PEN America Gala in Manhattan, when he was to accept a Business Visionary Award. PEN America will not be presenting the award this year, saying the honor is premised upon the recipient accepting in person.

The Gala, to be held May 18 at the American Museum of Natural History, is one of the year’s literary highlights and will feature the presentation of several awards, including one to “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels for Literary Service.

“Given the threat to disrupt this wonderful evening, I thought it was best to pull out so as not to distract from the important work that PEN America does for writers and journalists, as well as the celebration of my friend and personal hero Lorne Michaels,” Sarandos said in a statement released Wednesday by Netflix. “I hope the evening is a great success.”

A PEN spokesperson said that no one this year will be given the Business Visionary Award, which in 2022 was won by Audible founder Don Katz. A Netflix spokesperson said there would be no comment beyond Sarandos’ statement.

Michaels, whose show has been off the air since the strike began May 2, is still planning to attend, according to PEN. The head writer at SNL, Writers Guild member Colin Jost, will be serving as emcee.

In a statement Wednesday, PEN America praised Sarandos’ “singular work translating literature to artful presentation on screen and his stalwart defense of free expression and satire,” and added that as “a writers organization, we have been following recent events closely and understand his decision.

“Our Gala program, with honorees including Saturday Night Live‘s Lorne Michaels and emcee Colin Jost, will center on the escalating campaign of book bans in this country, tightening constraints on satire and comedy, and support of threatened writers worldwide. We look forward to a moving and inspiring event that will fuel our fervent work on behalf of free speech.”

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