How Reed Hastings Turned Netflix Around To Give Us Something TV Can't

Netflix has been killing it this year.

The video streaming service passed HBO in paid subscribers, has Emmy-winning shows, and big plans for 2014.

Under the command of CEO Reed Hastings, the company has come a long way since 2011 when many thought Netflix did itself in by trying to split itself into two different companies, one for DVDs and another for streaming.

In the past year, Hastings has helped redefine the way people are consuming and distributing TV — something that should have network heads worried.

Since January, the service has launched successful original shows including Primetime Emmy-winning “House of Cards” and critically acclaimed prison drama “Orange is the New Black.”

It also resurrected FOX’s old series “Arrested Development” and is in talks for more seasons.

If you told someone a few years ago that n original Internet series would win win Emmys, you would have thought them nuts.

But the video streaming service is doing something television and other streaming venues (including Hulu) haven’t been able to perfect: giving people access to shows and movies they want to watch any time, without ads, and in bulk if desired.

It led to the rise of binge-watching culture.

Viewership for the final season of “Breaking Bad” skyrocketed. Why? It didn’t surge by itself. Even creator Vince Gilligan believes Netflix had a role to play in record numbers.

More than that, it’s changing the way we discuss television shows. When every episode of “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” were released at once on the streaming service, TV reviewers were at odds with what to do. Binge-watch and review all at once? What about the viewers who were watching an episode a day? A week?

This showed another weakness of broadcast / cable television — rolling out an entire series at once is something a network simply cannot do.

Hastings’ push to evolve TV has paid off.

Today, the company has 33 million video subscribers. Back in 2008, Netflix had just under 5 million.

In a way, Hastings very much called the future five years ago in an interview with The Wall Street Journal when he predicted people would want to watch movies on something smaller than a TV screen:

“I think there’s a huge category of people who will watch movies on laptops,” said Hastings. “And remember, it’s not the laptop of today. Think of the laptop in five years. People will continue to want to watch movies on TV. No doubt about it. But laptop screens are improving. And young people are living on laptops.”

Looking toward the future, Netflix inked a big deal with Disney in November. The two are partnering for four exclusive live-action Marvel superhero shows that will culminate into a miniseries starting in 2015.

Hastings has also said he expects to double the company’s investment in original series and movies next year — a figure that should mark less than 10% of the company’s overall content spending.

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