More innovative, more entertainment-oriented than competition: Netflix boss Reed Hastings

More innovative, more entertainment-oriented than competition: Netflix boss Reed Hastings

Founder of the $25-bn streaming giant speaks to Udayan Mukherjee on the streaming giant’s strategy, taking on competitors, and more

Netflix is focussed on storytelling, says Reed Hastings Netflix is focussed on storytelling, says Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings, founder and co-CEO of the $25-billion revenue streaming giant Netflix has said his service is “more innovative” than competitors like Disney and HBO, and more entertainment-oriented than Amazon and Apple. Netflix, he said, wants to be “a part of everyone’s entertainment.”

In a freewheeling interview with Business Today’s Global Business Editor Udayan Mukherjee, in the television show Business Today with Udayan Mukherjee, Hastings, who famously started off Netflix as a DVD rental service in the United States, said: “We compete with these amazing companies – Amazon and Apple, Disney and HBO, so it’s definitely a big battle and no one knows how it is going to turn out.” However, he was quick to add: “Relative to Disney and HBO, we are more innovative, we think forward, we are scrappy and young and relative to Amazon and Apple, we are more entertainment oriented than they are. Their strength is to have a little bit of everything.”

Hastings said Netflix is focussed on storytelling and if it continued to focus on creating “amazing films and amazing shows”, it would surely have a part in the streaming pie. Hastings also spoke about how a late fee which he ran up got him to get the germ of an idea which would eventually become a company whose market capitalisation today is close to $260 billion.

On the “attention recession” which could hit Netflix and other streaming platforms as countries begin opening up post-pandemic, Hastings said people are always starved for great content. “Whether it’s great Indian content, Spanish content or Hollywood, it’s about having something that moves you, feels intense.” He said while post-pandemic people are choosy, “they only want the best but when you have the best content, you can grow a lot.”

Hastings said in terms of viewership hours, he sees YouTube as Netflix’s biggest competitor, and also TikTok, the short video platform, to an extent. But he said instead of focusing on competition, Netflix chooses to focus on the “next big show, what is the next Delhi Crime story that everyone could be talking about, those are the moments we think about.” During the interview, Hastings also spoke about celebrated filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s earlier opposition to his platform and his battle to keep Netflix out of the Oscars. Today, Netflix and Spielberg have signed a major deal where Amblin Partners, Spielberg’s company, will be making multiple movies for Netflix.

Hastings said India is one of Netflix’s priority markets. “What’s great about the Indian market is that Hotstar started so early and pioneered streaming [in India]. It has really increased the market size and then Reliance Jio transformed it with regard to access and cost, democratized it. So they created the base for the market which is today one of our top global priorities.”

(The Reed Hastings interview with Udayan Mukherjee airs tonight on India Today Television at 10.30 pm, with repeat telecasts on Saturday at 9.30 pm and Sunday at 8.30 pm. Read excerpts from the interview in the latest issue of Business Today magazine.)

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