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Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) is usually cast as a cable competitor, but CEO Reed Hastings said he thinks cable will eventually become an on-demand internet platform, and Netflix just another programming provider that cable can use to sell its services.
“It’s not in the short term, but it’s in the natural direction for us in the long term,” said Hastings, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco Tuesday. “Many (cable service providers) would like to have a competitor to HBO, and they would bid us off of HBO.”
Hastings continued to identify HBO’s Go on-demand service — as well as the cable industry’s larger TV Everywhere model — as Netflix’s top competition, and he continued to downplay the emergence of what he called “copycat” competition in the video streaming business from companies like Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). ‘It’s very easy for companies to over-estimate copycat competition and not see the real threat,” said Hastings, who cited the example of now-defunct internet-browsing pioneer Netscape. “You go back to 1995, and you talk to the Netscape sales force and ask them what their No. 1 competition is, and they’d say Spy Glass, which was taking a little market share from them at the time. But the real competition was Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and bundling.”
As cable-based content providers like HBO continue to evolve their products for an on-demand, multi-device world, Hastings said Netflix’s innovation must be focused on them. “That’s part of the reason why do original content,” he said. “That hedges us against that longterm TV Everywhere threat.”
Hastings made his remarks on the same day that HBO revealed that Go will be available on Xbox Live starting April 1, thus offering users of Microsoft’s video programming service a premium option to Netflix when it comes to getting movies and TV shows piped in on-demand into their living rooms. The move will coincide with the season premiere of the HBO hit Game of Thrones.