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Netflix CEO in talks to get chummy with cable guys

This is just another battle in its long war with HBO

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 6, 2012
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/24db

For those that access Netflix on their TV sets only from their Roku boxes, you might have another option soon: going through your cable provider. 

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been secretly negotiating with cable subscribers to enter into a partnership in which Netflix’s streaming service would be available to their subscribers, according to Reuters.

Hastings has made it clear in the past that he sees the future of his company as another HBO.  "It's in the natural direction for us in the long term," Hastings said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. "Many (cable service providers) would like to have a competitor to HBO, and they would bid us off of HBO."

Netflix and HBO have a complicated, and very contentious, history. As Hasting said last December, the two are rivals. And the closer Netflix comes to integrating itself with television, the bloodier the rivalry will become. 

The first sign of bad blood came in April of last year when HBO partnered with Dish Online to broadcast its content online. A Dish Online executive even made sure to bash Netflix in his statement, saying "Dish Network customers with an HBO or Cinemax subscription can also get new series titles after their premiere--plus bonus content including interviews, recaps and behind-the-scenes extras--none of which are available through Netflix's online service."

Then, in January of this year HBO killed a deal it had with Netflix to sell the online company discounted DVDs. This came a month after Hastings was quoted as saying "The competitor we fear the most is HBO Go," Hastings said. "They aren't competing directly with us now, but they can. HBO is becoming much more Netflix-like, and we're becoming much more HBO-like."

Apparently HBO was not interested in giving a deal to a company that considered them a competitor.

Of course, this news comes after a particularly bad stretch for Netflix, where it lost a lucrative deal with Starz, causing them to lose over 1,000 movies and TV shows from its streaming library. Plus, there was the infamous PR distaster over its proposed splitting of the company following a steep price hike. This all led them to losing more than 800,000 subscribers in one quarter.

Netflix is now developing its own scripted content, as it slowly drifts away from the company that it was, where it delivered a service that almost no one else offered, to becoming a company that is, frankly, probably not going to be as good as others doing the same thing. Especially if some of the reviews of its first original series, Lilyhammer, are to be believed. 

Nevertheless, Netflix is definitely on the path to becoming a presence in the TV world. Right now, HBO and Netflix are neck and neck in number of subscribers, with HBO leading by four million but with Netflix growing at a faster pace. It will be very interesting to see who comes out ahead when these two rivals really have to face each other.

Netflix did not return our request for comment.


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