Netflix CEO `Most Scared' of Hollywood's TV Everywhere Effort

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
  • On-demand initiative lagging though a `fundamental threat'
  • Pay-TV customer numbers to be stable for a long time: Hastings

Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings has some advice for media executives worried that his streaming service is stealing their viewers: Fix TV Everywhere.

TV Everywhere is the industry’s attempt to keep pay-TV subscribers from leaving for streaming alternatives by letting them watch shows online when they want on any device. Some analysts say the effort, spearheaded in 2009 by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp., has been slow to catch on with many customers. The service has been criticized for repetitive commercials and for not making multiple seasons available on demand. Viewers need to log in with their cable or satellite subscription passwords to access it.

“We’ve always been most scared of TV Everywhere as the most fundamental threat,” Hastings said at the New York Times DealBook conference in New York. “You get all this incredible content that the ecosystem presents on demand for your same $80 a month. Yet the inability of that ecosystem to execute on that, for a variety of reasons, has been troubling.”

Some of the world’s biggest media companies are adjusting their strategy after years of years of selling old seasons of shows exclusively to Netflix. Some are signing deals with other streaming-video providers like Hulu or making more episodes available on demand via traditional pay-TV distributors.

Investors have become concerned that TV producers may be jeopardizing long-term prospects for lucrative short-term deals with subscription video on-demand companies like Los Gatos, California-based Netflix, which have grown in popularity and taken viewers away from regular TV watching.

Those concerns helped fuel a sell-off in media stocks in August, with entertainment companies losing more than $60 billion in value over two days.

Some analysts say those “cord-cutting” fears were overblown, and last month pay-TV providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications Inc. reported video business results that exceeded analysts’ estimates for the third quarter.

Hastings said he expects the number of pay-TV subscribers “will be relatively stable for a fairly long time” because TV programmers and distributors will eventually improve their on-demand services. 

“When forced to act, they will improve,” Hastings said.

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