Netflix CEO: End of 'Linear TV' Within 20 Years...

Netflix Doesn’t Want to Kill HBO. It Wants to Kill TV.

By Peter Kafka

April 16, 2015, 3:40 AM PDT

We’ve heard a lot about the battle between HBO and Netflix in recent months, prompted by HBO’s move to offer its own Netflix-like Web service.

But Netflix’s boffo Q1 earnings yesterday gave CEO Reed Hastings a good chance to remind people what he’s really gunning for: It’s not HBO, it’s TV.

Hastings has been quite clear about this for some time. While his company has been happy to use HBO as a competitive benchmark — “The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” content chief Ted Sarandos famously announced — Hastings has said, over and over again, that he doesn’t need HBO to fail in order for him to grow. There’s plenty of overlap between the two services’ customer bases.

Instead, he said yesterday, Netflix thinks the real opportunity isn’t to overtake HBO, but to help destroy the TV Industrial Complex and its one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it bundle. Its replacement, he predicts, will be “Internet TV” — a variety of apps/networks/channels you can customize at will.

He’s been saying this for years, and took the time to spell it out in a memo for investors two years ago (he’s tweaked it a bit since then). But if you needed a reminder yesterday, he was happy to help you out during the company’s earnings call.
Again and again.

•“I think you should really think about it as all the Internet services — HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu — are great values. In comparison to the big bundle.”

•“Linear TV has been on an amazing 50 year run, [but] Internet TV is starting to grow. Clearly over the next 20 years Internet TV is going to replace linear TV. … Internet TV is the way that people will consume video in the future.”

•“The great thing about the emergence of sports online is that it frees people up to be more à la carte, which gives them more money to be able to spend on Netflix.”

And yes, if Hastings is right, then HBO and every other channel that’s done very well for the last couple decades in the existing structure faces a much more uncomfortable future. They’ll need to be much more nimble, and much better at convincing viewers of their value.

But it looks like that message has begun to sink in for some of them. Including HBO.


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