On-demand viewing a key element for broadcasters
Reed Hastings, the founder and chief executive of Netflix, is taking a keen interest in the Middle East.
At the Netflix Los Gatos headquarters in California, Mr Hastings reveals that the company is looking to produce an Arabic TV series and create more local content for the region. Here, he shares his thoughts with The National on the TV industry.
“Since the 1940s, 1950s, we’ve had linear television, a transformative force in human entertainment. The idea that you could have moving pictures in the home? I mean that’s amazing. And yet in one decade, we’re seeing this rapid rise of internet television and a whole different paradigm that’s centred around the user and letting them choose what they want.
“It was a miracle that you could take one signal and broadcast it inexpensively to all these homes, that was incredible innovation. But really, everything else in our life is on demand. Do you read books by saying the book is on? Music, books, it’s on demand … you consume it at your schedule. Meals: you eat when you want. The rest of our life is on demand and so this idea that television is meant to be broadcast, now that’s an artefact of a first generation technology.
“We’re finally able to shift with the internet to an on-demand world, which is the natural and powerful and human way to consume video content. It is opening up this explosion of creativity. We’re producing shows all over the world, all these different types of formats and we’re just beginning. And our competitors, similarly, are exploring all kinds of new ways of producing shows.
“The barriers to entry are falling. The number of voices are growing. When we first launched in 2007, our app was only on Microsoft Windows and we only had a few TV shows. And yet it still took off, because you got the sense of click and watch.
“Now, we are able to figure out the networks so that you as a consumer get a great picture quality [with] no buffering. We want to make buffering a historic relic … and we’re helping drive that out to where everything is just click and watch.
“The most important work I think that we do is around personalisation. Everyone seems to have different tastes and so the value of personalisation is that the consumer can get a great experience where hundreds and thousands of titles that we’re producing gets filtered down and prioritised.
“Personalisation is really the thing that the internet can do, that linear can’t do, that’s a real breakthrough.
“And then how we render that to make it easy, those mobile paradigms are continuing to evolve. If you think of the [Netflix] Web form, 10 years ago it was like an Amazon detail page. You click on something, you get the detail page. Much of the user interface is still reminiscent of that. We’ve got to do more, we’ve got to be thinking of the new paradigms, the way Airbnb, the way Snapchat work, the way Facebook video works. We’re working on that to continue to push the edge in mobile video.
“So we’re innovating on the delivery side, the adaptive streaming, we’re innovating around personalisation and then around modernising the user interface constantly both on mobile, television and the Web.
“We often get the question – are you a tech company or are you a content company? For Netflix, we’re trying to combine an amazing studio that’s producing some of the world’s most interesting content, content that would succeed greatly on linear TV, but is also available on demand.
“Combine that with great technology and it is a challenge. The cultures are a little bit different. If we do great technology and great content, then we market and service that around the world, then that’s going to be a much bigger success than only doing one of those.
“So we sidestep the question and say we love both of our children and we want them both to do well.”
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Updated: May 8, 2017 04:00 AM