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 must always reduce 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 Instances Dealbook convention at present, and I’m going to go deeper on them in a minute.
However first, just a little little bit of context: I went to at present’s occasion as a result of it was a reasonably uncommon likelihood to see Hastings converse in public — one thing he’s finished little or no of lately past the quarterly earnings calls his firm hosts. And we definitely haven’t heard a lot from Hastings since April, when Netflix announced a shocking subscriber loss — and, simply as shockingly, a move into advertising, which the company had always 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 progress and income issues, then it meant everyone chasing Netflix was going to run into the same problems — helped bitter media buyers on the streaming business 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, just a few 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 incorrect — or absolutely anything else incorrect — you’d be disillusioned with this interview: Hastings nonetheless thinks nearly every little thing Netflix was doing three years in the past remains to be right at present.
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 back in the spring of 2021. On reflection, that transfer was a a lot clearer sign that it was anxious about the way forward for streaming than most of us picked up on on the time. And since then, Netflix has purchased just a few small recreation studios and launched a pair dozen informal video games. However neither the gaming business nor Wall Avenue appears to suppose Netflix will likely 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 mentioned again and again, needs to make nice TV exhibits, films, and video games. And when requested about Netflix’s well-reported interest in getting into sports, he answered with this: “Speak to us after we’re a giant chief in video games. We have now a variety of funding to do in video games.” Message obtained.
Talking of sports activities: Hastings wasn’t requested straight about Netflix bidding on stay sports activities rights (although different executives within the house have informed me Netflix has finished so). However when requested about his not too long ago introduced transfer to livestream a Chris Rock comedy special subsequent yr, Hastings instantly dismissed the concept this was a precursor to streaming stay sports activities. “That’s not true.” Livestreaming, he mentioned, will likely be used for issues like comedy, and possibly “contestant exhibits,” which form 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 clarify 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 keen to be very aggressive within the deal.” However Hastings insisted that this doesn’t sign an eventual sale to Microsoft, which numerous business people have speculated about. “It’s not regular to do industrial offers with folks you’re making an attempt to accumulate,” he mentioned. “That makes it extra difficult, 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 directly. Netflix has began to play with that concept a bit (this summer it split its newest Stranger Things season into two chunks). However Hastings says Netflix gained’t eliminate it as a result of he doesn’t have to — different streamers have to unfold their exhibits out, he mentioned, as a result of they don’t have as many exhibits folks like — and since prospects prefer it.
Asking whether or not prospects would like a world the place they’ve to attend per week to see a brand new episode is not sensible, he mentioned — it will be akin to asking “would you slightly learn yesterday’s information or at present’s?” And Hastings additionally mentioned Netflix had no regrets in regards to the Dave Chappelle specials it launched, by which the comic has more and more targeted on battling trans activists. These specials have been massive hits for the service, he mentioned, and “we’d do it repeatedly.”
Elon and Mark: Hastings, who was on Meta’s board of administrators, provided muted reward for Mark Zuckerberg’s push into digital actuality and the metaverse: “I feel the world ought to be saying, ‘Thanks, Mark, for advancing this nice know-how,’” he mentioned. “[But] I don’t know if it’s nice for shareholders.”
Hastings was fulsome about his admiration for Elon Musk, who he referred to as “the bravest, most artistic individual on the planet.” Hastings famous that Musk’s private type is extra … bombastic than his, however mentioned that Musk’s critics are getting it incorrect: “I’m one hundred pc satisfied that he’s making an attempt to assist the world,” he mentioned, and argued that we must always reward him for paying $44 billion for Twitter as a substitute of, say, constructing a very massive yacht. “Give this man a break.”