Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix and one of the most notable names in home entertainment over the course of the last 25 years, does not think that nightly news programs are ever likely to pop up on the streaming giant's platform -- but other timely programs, such as livestreams, user-generated content, and sports are very much in play. That's according to a new interview, in which he talks about his book No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention (co-written by Erin Meyer, a business professor), and the past and future of the company he helped make into a must-use utility for families around the country.
One of the things that seems to be standing in the way at the moment is cost. As video rental chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video started to circle the drain, Netflix seemingly intuited the streaming was that would follow, and started pouring money into original content that would help them carve out an identity in the event that dozens of streaming services were to suddenly pop up, all competing for the audience's attention. But that content costs money, and sports aren't cheap.
Saying that sports could make sense for Netflix at some point, Hastings told Variety, "I doubt news, but sports, video gaming, user-generated content — if you think of the other big categories, someday it could make sense. But right now, [co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos has] got every billion dollar earmarked for bigger movies, bigger series, animation of course… At least for the next couple of years, every content dollar is spoken for."
Following that "couple of years," though, it could be more important than it ever has been for Netflix to innovate their approach. They aren't just sharing the market with Hulu and Amazon anymore -- and while Netflix remains the undisputed king of streaming right now, the coming months and years will see evergreen hits like The Office and the final remaining Disney, Marvel, DC, and other big-brand movies migrating away from the platform -- maybe for good. As that starts to happen, Netflix could take a hit -- and look to make some big changes to recover.
Different streaming services are handling sports and timely content differently. HBO Max is not relying on it, and neither is Disney+ -- although both ESPN+ and Hulu, which can be bundled with Disney+ at a steep discount, use live sports to lure in audiences. Peacock, new to the market and keen to use live broadcasts to help distinguish themselves from their competitors, seems to be building sports into its identity early, as well as including some exclusive games (something Amazon has also dabbled in).
And those are just the ones that seem likely to be around in a few years; it's going to be interesting to see how the streaming battles of the next few months and years shape how viewers get their content -- and what services are fighting for it.