In its latest earnings today, Netflix reiterated that HBO and its streaming service are not direct threats — a different tune than the company sang less than a year ago.
The premium network sent shockwaves through the video industry by announcing that its HBO Now streaming service would be available to non-cable subscribers. In theory, the service competes with Netflix’s, but CEO Reed Hastings is taking a positive view of it.
“HBO at $15 is a great value,” Hastings said of Now on a live earnings call that YouTube hosted today. “I’ve traditionally paid more to my cable company for it.”
He then pivoted to his own company, noting “of course, it does underline just how great a value Netflix is.”
The reason for Hastings’ upbeat attitude about HBO Now is that he believes the availability of the service will only fuel people’s interest in streaming video service in general.
“What you’re seeing is Internet video drawing more people in, thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got to check that out’,” Hastings said. “All the Internet video services are great values.”
In its 2015 Q1 earnings statement, Netflix said:
In the US, HBO began offering its $15 per month “HBO Now” service last week. As we have said in the past, Netflix and HBO are not substitutes for one another given differing content. We think both will continue to be successful in the marketplace, as illustrated by the fact that HBO has continued to grow globally and domestically as we have rapidly grown over the past five years.
Compare that to its third-quarter earnings statement from 2014:
Starting back in 2011 we started saying that HBO would be our primary long-term competitor, particularly for content.
HBO competes with Netflix for more than just streaming subscribers. The two compete to buy the premium content that attracts subscribers. In a 2015 document called Long Term View, Netflix said as much:
The network that we think is likely to be our biggest long-term competitor-for-content is HBO. In the US for example, HBO won long-term exclusive domestic movie output deals with Universal and Fox and Warner Bros. HBO bids against us on many original content projects though is not currently a bidder against us for prior-season television from other networks. HBO has global reach and was early with their HBO Go app.
And if that’s not enough for you, back in 2011 at UBS Conference CEO Reed Hastings said:
The competitor we fear the most is HBO Go. 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.
Netflix’s first quarter 2015 results showed positive subscriber growth in both the U.S. and international markets.
Actually, Netflix has been shifting its marketing spend to Europe and other international markets because there are simply more new subscribers to be had there than in North America. Netflix says its overall streaming content revenue grew 31 percent from the first quarter of last year.
Hastings had this to say about content providers that are now trying to distribute their video assets intelligently over a mix of traditional and streaming channels.
“Clearly people in the future will be moving toward viewing video on the Internet and away from linear TV,” Hastings said. “So everyone is running around now trying to figure out how to build great apps, and that will just keep building up.
“The way people do that is to get involved with companies like Netflix and our competitors.”
Mark Sullivan contributed to this report.