Netflix' Hastings Wants Us To Look At The Big Picture

Problems? What problems? Did you see a problem around here?

“To hear Netflix CEO Reed Hastings tell it,” writes the AP’s Michael Liedtke, “the bone-headed decisions that have dragged down the Internet's leading video subscription service during the past five months eventually will be forgotten like a bad movie made by a great film director.”

Actually, Liedtke allows, Hastings has been “humbled and surprised” by customers’ reactions –- not to mention the loss of 75% of the value of his company –- to his strategy of splitting the mail-rental and streaming services into two separate plans and drastically raising prices, followed by a name change that was later recanted. He also threw out some “self-deprecating humor” at a UBS AG media and communications conference in New York Tuesday. But in the end, he believes that his company will prevail.

"If you fundamentally believe Internet video will change the world in 20 years, we are the leading play on that basis," Hastings boasted. He quickly added a caveat: "As long as we don't shoot ourselves in the foot anymore."



Indeed, the media moguls on the other side of the streaming-rights bargaining table agreed yesterday that digital distribution –- also known as “over the top” -- is going to not only be huge but also presents its biggest challenge, Edmund Lee reports in Bloomberg Businessweek.

“The digital space is incredibly important,” News Corp. COO Chase Carey said yesterday at the conference.  “Over the next five years, it’ll be the No. 1 issue we’ll have to navigate.”

The content moguls look on streaming venues such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon -- as well as Apple’s digital downloads and, soon perhaps, Verizon -- as avenues to keep their older vehicles on the road.

“We were very intrigued by this idea of a new window,” said Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, who cut a deal with Netflix in September. “We don’t know what this new window is going to do, but we created a new window, mostly 18 months old and older.”

Why even Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes was talking up Netflix at the conference, calling them a “friend.” That struck UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff as a bit odd, considering that last year Bewkes said Netflix was “‘a little bit like the Albanian army going to take over the world.’”

“No, no, it’s true,” Bewkes protested in reply “We’re partners. We sell them programming. We just did a great deal with both Netflix and Hulu…. And I think that this is the appropriate place to point out that the Albanian army did actually take over the world. Alexander the Great, right?”

In a commentary reporting the above exchange, MarketWatch senior columnist Therese Poletti posits that Netflix may be “morphing into more of a premium cable channel type of company,” but “asks how many of those exist as stand-alone entities?” She goes so far as to suggest possible ulterior motive in the “Netflix/Time Warner love-in,” as the headline puts it.

“One far-fetched notion is there is a possibility Hastings may be trying to get Time Warner’s Bewkes to have a look at his beleaguered company,” she writes. Unlikely, though, she points out.

Indeed, if the media companies are looking for ways to keep their older content chugging along, the contrite-but-still-confident Hastings is shepherding Netflix into its own content creation.

“The service is making a political drama called ‘House of Cards’ starring Kevin Spacey and also is producing new episodes of the critically acclaimed Fox sitcom ‘Arrested Development,’ Joe Flint reports in the Los Angeles Times’ “Company Town” blog. "'House of Cards' is coming together great and 'Arrested Development' will be off the charts," Hastings said. He added that the creative community is "welcoming us as another bidder."

Hastings, in fact, fears Time Warner's HBO, and its new HBO Go iPad application, the most, Flint writes.

"HBO is becoming more Netflix-like and we're becoming more HBO-like," he said.

I’m not sure this is good news for friends who are already being deluged by too much information about what people ate for lunch and pictures of the cute-as-a-button granddaughter, but Facebook may soon be carrying a Netflix app that will foist their pal’s movie choices on them, too.

In a rare show of agreement,abill that would allow companies to access certain consumer data from the Internet with their consent passed the House of Representatives yesterday by with a 303-116 vote.

The bill needs to be approved by the Senate and get the president’s signature, Wiredreports, but legislation sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would tweak the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow users to not only consent to video sharing over the web but also would also allow them to consent once to all future sharing.

Facebook has an app thatwill launch this fall in all 44 countries it operates in except the U.S., because of current restrictions, Ben Fritz tells us in the Los Angeles Times’ “Company Town” blog.

Until that happens, anybody got some recommendations that would stop me from canceling my Netflix streaming? I’ve think I’ve used it once since the big split.

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