It’s probably too late, but newspaper publishers might have taken a page from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
As a Wall Street Journal profile notes, even as the video rental company has been adding subscribers and boosting inventory of its mail-order DVDs, it’s focused on the future, when Hastings thinks the little plastic discs will be obsolete.
Remember it wasn’t long ago that the company fought a war of attrition with the Blockbuster behemoth, and more or less won.
But Hastings believes that as DVD home-video sales keep dropping and broadband availability and bandwidth keep scaling up, it’s a matter of time until customers are accessing videos through set-top boxes or Internet-enabled televisions. Hastings’ plan for navigating Netflix through its second disruptive shift?
- Navigate the thicket of corporate rights: Sony has pushed Netflix to ban its existing online offerings from customers using Netflix on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 — rival to its Playstation.
- Stay focused on content and delivery. Hastings had a long and potential dangerous flirtation with turning his company into the next Apple — getting customers to buy boxes and then selling them content to put on them — until he realised he was better off leaving hardware to other companies, like Roku.
- Stay profitable during the transition. Redbox is back as a competitor, offering $1/night DVD rentals through kiosks in shopping malls and supermarkets. But Netflix is choosing to cede that territory and focus on streaming distribution. It will take discipline if Redbox starts to steal market share from Netflix’s red envelopes.
Hastings tells the Journal he’s a “student of companies tripped up by failing to adapt to technology shifts.” Even so, this challenge finds him battling not just brick-and-mortar dinosaurs, but also the studios and their own content deals with Hulu, Apple, Amazon and other disruptors.
Even Hastings admits he’d “rather have Blockbuster” as a a rival.