Business Maverick

Netflix CEO Vows to Spend Even More on Content

By Bloomberg 7 November 2019
Caption
Reed Hastings, chief executive officer of Netflix Inc., listens during the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. The conference brings together an unmatched group of top CEOs, founders, pioneers, investors and luminaries to explore tech opportunities emerging around the world. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Netflix Inc. expects to spend a $15 billion on programming this year, dwarfing its streaming rivals. But it’s just getting started.

Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said at the DealBook conference that the company’s expenditures on shows and movies will only grow.

“We plan on taking spend up quite a bit,” he said Wednesday at the New York event. “We’re growing and investing around the world. We’ve been strong in series. Now we’re getting really strong in movies.”

The remarks show how competitive the streaming industry is becoming, with media giants all diving into the market with their own services. They’re locked in an arms race to offer the most compelling content — and it’s not cheap. AT&T Inc. will be offering 10,000 hours of programming with its HBO Max platform, due next year. It expects to spend $4 billion on the service, which won’t be profitable until 2025.

A new Walt Disney Co. service due this month will feature dozens of new original programs, on top of the hundreds of titles in the company’s library. And Apple Inc. is spending billions of dollars just on new series for its service, Apple TV+, which rolled out last week.

Netflix remains the industry leader, but it’s facing more pressure than ever before. Hastings said he expects to learn a thing or two from his rivals.

“We admire the heck out” out of Disney, he said. “They’re the one we have the most to learn from.”

Netflix has come under fire from Hollywood traditionalists for not respecting the industry’s theatrical windows — the timeframe when a movie plays at cinemas before going to home video. Hastings said he expects such windows to disappear altogether.

Theaters will be like restaurants, he said: “A going-out experience.”

Animated Push

There’s also plenty of room for Netflix to expand into new categories, Hastings said.

“A big thrust for us is animated and next year we’ve got the beginnings of a great animation slate, so we’re investing heavily there,” he said. “Unscripted — we’re doing more and more. So we’ve got a long way to go, especially on a global basis.”

But when asked if Netflix would start making the kind of megabudget Hollywood movies that pack theaters in the summer, Hastings didn’t give a direct answer.

“We’ll continue to push the envelope,” he said.

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