Netflix’s Hastings Says Streaming Can Coexist With Theaters

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings thinks it’s a win-win for movies to play in theaters and stream to the home, comparing the former to going out to dinner, and the latter to cooking at home. Saying it is “inevitable that the current window system breaks down,” Hastings believes that audiences will still pay for the communal experience of a movie theater. He also stated that, although he had argued for net neutrality in the past, he currently believes it is not Netflix’s primary battle anymore.

According to The Verge, it is “not surprising that Hastings would attempt to offer a diplomatic response to a hard question about what the real future of distribution is.” In the past, he has insisted he is not “anti-theater,” but that he advocates for “innovation and growth in the movie market.” In response to a query, he also stated that Netflix has “no plans” to launch its own movie theater chain since “TVs are getting so good that it makes little sense.”

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The Verge also reported on Hastings’ lack of response to the FCC backpedaling on net neutrality. “It’s not narrowly important to us because we’re big enough to get the deals we want,” he said, adding that Netflix is “weighing in against” changing the current rules, but that “it’s not our primary battle at this point.”

The difference, he says, is that net neutrality was “really important” to Netflix 10 years ago but, currently, smaller players will be harmed by recent rule changes. “We had to carry the water when we were growing up and we were small,” Hastings said. “Other companies have to be on that leading edge.”

In another report, The Verge addressed the result of Netflix’s refusal to release Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” in French theaters: Cannes disqualified streaming-only films for the future. Hastings related that the National Federation of French Cinemas has “roughly half” of the board seats at Cannes, who prevailed on the festival director to threaten “to threaten to pull us out, which got a bunch of press.”

“He kept us in because artistic integrity should be the trumping principle,” said Hastings. “Sometimes the establishment is clumsy when it tries to shut out the insurgent, and then the insurgent’s role is to play that up, which we did.” Hastings said Netflix didn’t pick a fight with Cannes nor does it “want to fight with anyone.” The resulting press, however, brought Netflix more attention, which was “fantastic” for Netflix and the two filmmakers in question.

When prompted to answer if making movies is a challenge for Netflix, Hastings admitted that there is no movie equivalent for bingeing. He brushed aside suggestions that cancelled shows like “Marco Polo” and “The Get Down” were big failures, saying they were “like 1 percent of the total budget for original content.”

“If anything, what I push our content team on is you should have more things that don’t work out,” he said. “You gotta get more aggressive. The drive towards conformity as you grow as a company is very substantial.”

Related:
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Amazon: ‘They’re Awfully Scary’, Variety, 5/31/17