Is this the beginning of a new power trio for the web? Facebook announced Thursday that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has joined its board of directors.
Hastings is also a board member for Microsoft. And Microsoft, which bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook in 2007, has a search partnership with the social network. Facebook and Netflix, meanwhile, have been talking about a partnership that would integrate Netflix with the site. These three companies were already looking rather cozy. Hastings’ appointment to Facebook’s board could strengthen their ties.
Though unexpected, this development isn’t a complete surprise. As Facebook gears up for its IPO, seasoned executives like Hastings make valued directors. Hastings not only steered Netflix through its successful IPO in 2002, he leads one of the web’s most successful subscription-based businesses.
Netflix has been struggling to construct a social layer for its business, and Facebook is slated to be one a key partner in the overhaul. Hastings telegraphed as much in January with the mention of a forthcoming Facebook integration in a shareholder letter. By March, screen shots on this integration already started to hit the web.
With news sprouting up about Project Spartan, Facebook’s possible HTML5 app platform, Hastings’s media business savvy could prove to be an valuable asset for Facebook. Over the last 14 years, Hastings has forged media sharing and licensing deals with Apple, whose App Store just happens to be squarely in Spartan’s crosshairs. If Facebook does decide to take on Cupertino (or at the very least iron out its movie streaming ambitions), Hastings is undoubtedly one of the best sources for market insight and strategy.
To be sure, although today’s news bodes well for these projects, it remains to be seen how strong alliance is emerging among these three companies. Despite Hasting serving on Microsoft’s board of directors since 2007, Netflix’s Watch Instantly service has had a historically bumpy relationship with its Redmond-supplied platform, Silverlight.
In addition to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Hastings joins an all-star list of investors including Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, Jim Breyer of Accel Partners and Peter Thiel of Clarium Capital and Founders Fund fame.