Netflix doesn’t wish to promote itself to Microsoft. It does wish to get actually deep into the video games enterprise. Elon Musk is a courageous man, and we should always lower him some slack. And did we point out that Netflix actually, actually needs to be in video games?
These are a number of the takeaways from Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings’s look on the New York Occasions Dealbook convention right this moment, and I’m going to go deeper on them in a minute.
However first, slightly little bit of context: I went to right this moment’s occasion as a result of it was a reasonably uncommon probability to see Hastings converse in public — one thing he’s completed little or no of lately past the quarterly earnings calls his firm hosts. And we actually haven’t heard a lot from Hastings since April, when Netflix introduced a stunning subscriber loss — and, simply as shockingly, a transfer into promoting, which the corporate had at all times insisted it wouldn’t do.
These bulletins and the implication behind them — if Netflix, the clear chief in streaming, was already beginning to run into development and income issues, then it meant everybody chasing Netflix was going to run into the identical issues — helped bitter media buyers on the streaming trade Netflix had pioneered.
And as Dealbook host Andrew Ross Sorkin famous, the final time Hastings got here to New York for this convention was three years in the past, a number of months earlier than the pandemic locked down a lot of the world and a time when Netflix was the north star for streaming, with subsequent to no competitors. However when you have been on the lookout for Hastings to throw out a mea culpa about getting streaming improper — or absolutely anything else improper — you’d be dissatisfied with this interview: Hastings nonetheless thinks nearly every thing Netflix was doing three years in the past continues to be right right this moment.
However this was a wide-ranging interview, and it wasn’t streamed, so I wish to pull out some highlights for you right here.
Video games, video games, video games: Netflix first introduced a foray into video video games again within the spring of 2021. Looking back, that transfer was a a lot clearer sign that it was nervous about the way forward for streaming than most of us picked up on on the time. And since then, Netflix has purchased a number of small sport studios and launched a pair dozen informal video games. However neither the gaming trade nor Wall Avenue appears to suppose Netflix shall be an actual competitor in video games. So it was attention-grabbing that all through the interview, Hastings repeatedly talked about his curiosity in video games, with out prompting. Netflix, he stated again and again, needs to make nice TV exhibits, motion pictures, and video games. And when requested about Netflix’s well-reported curiosity in stepping into sports activities, he answered with this: “Discuss to us after we’re an enormous chief in video games. We’ve a number of funding to do in video games.” Message acquired.
Talking of sports activities: Hastings wasn’t requested straight about Netflix bidding on dwell sports activities rights (although different executives within the house have informed me Netflix has completed so). However when requested about his lately introduced transfer to livestream a Chris Rock comedy particular subsequent yr, Hastings instantly dismissed the concept this was a precursor to streaming dwell sports activities. “That’s not true.” Livestreaming, he stated, shall be used for issues like comedy, and perhaps “contestant exhibits,” which sort of sound like sports activities to me however I’m assuming means stuff like Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” actuality exhibits/contests.
Netflix + Microsoft = ? Requested to elucidate why Netflix had picked Microsoft to be its accomplice in its foray into promoting, Hastings was fairly clear: Microsoft paid Netflix some huge cash. Or in his phrases: “They have been prepared to be very aggressive within the deal.” However Hastings insisted that this doesn’t sign an eventual sale to Microsoft, which a number of trade people have speculated about. “It’s not regular to do industrial offers with folks you’re attempting to amass,” he stated. “That makes it extra sophisticated, not much less.”
Sticking with bingeing, and Chappelle: One of many many issues Hollywood thinks Netflix ought to do to be extra like Hollywood is dispense with its custom of dropping all of its exhibits without delay. Netflix has began to play with that concept a bit (this summer season it cut up its latest Stranger Issues season into two chunks). However Hastings says Netflix received’t eliminate it as a result of he doesn’t have to — different streamers have to unfold their exhibits out, he stated, as a result of they don’t have as many exhibits folks like — and since clients prefer it.
Asking whether or not clients would like a world the place they’ve to attend every week to see a brand new episode is not sensible, he stated — it could be akin to asking “would you fairly learn yesterday’s information or right this moment’s?” And Hastings additionally stated Netflix had no regrets in regards to the Dave Chappelle specials it launched, by which the comic has more and more centered on battling trans activists. These specials have been large hits for the service, he stated, and “we might do it time and again.”
Elon and Mark: Hastings, who was on Meta’s board of administrators, supplied muted reward for Mark Zuckerberg’s push into digital actuality and the metaverse: “I believe the world needs to be saying, ‘Thanks, Mark, for advancing this nice know-how,’” he stated. “[But] I don’t know if it’s nice for shareholders.”
Hastings was fulsome about his admiration for Elon Musk, who he known as “the bravest, most inventive particular person on the planet.” Hastings famous that Musk’s private fashion is extra … bombastic than his, however stated that Musk’s critics are getting it improper: “I’m 100% satisfied that he’s attempting to assist the world,” he stated, and argued that we should always reward him for paying $44 billion for Twitter as a substitute of, say, constructing a very large yacht. “Give this man a break.”