The future of the television industry with the emergence of online TV platforms is a talking point that has many theoretical outcomes, with the latest coming from a very high-profile source, as Reed Hastings, the CEO of American streaming giants Netflix, claims that while ‘traditional cable TV companies’ will still be present, they will be networks dictated by the actions of their online counterparts.
Speaking during a promotional tour for new Netflix series House of Cards (with all 13 Kevin Spacey-led episodes going online later this week) in Washington DC (USA), and noted that the regular networks that his service is working alongside and competing with when it comes to TV shows could inevitably become ‘web-based content providers’, with high-speed broadband and personalised advertising considered as reasons why online platforms will become bigger than TV.
He also noting that the original content emerging on Netflix has similarities to the early years of cable TV broadcasting, which originally took on ‘reruns’ only before branching out to provide their own shows more often.
Hastings gave an example of this possible future, along with how his company are developing in regards to potentially shaping it: “What we’ll see in the Internet is most cable networks will become Internet networks — we’ll still call ESPN a cable network, but it’ll be mostly delivered over the Internet in 10 or 20 years. The fundamental advantage of the Internet is individualization, control, being able to watch on any screen. It’s just a much better technology substrate for video. We’re embarking on this really big phase of pioneering original content. It’s different — you’ve got creative risks, operational risks, your financing — it’s much more ambitious. But it’s the natural thing that you grow into.”
The CEO also spoke of the recent law changes that enabled Netflix (and other ‘online video providers’) the right to share user’s rental history with paying social networking websites such as Facebook for a period of up to two years. He defended the move that has been criticized by many, noting that it could yet be beneficial to all concerned, and also recognising the possible future importance of service provision.
Hastings summarised: “It’s in a vacuum, because no one can use the Netflix social aspect yet. Once people get to see it, they are going to not see it as an invasion of privacy. It’s ambiguous right now because there aren’t big problems [with ISP's]. There’s big threats, but, in general, the Internet is working really well. Uncapped [internet service] is better for sure, like Google Fiber. But we’re not at some big crisis point. So it behooves us at Netflix to stay active in it and keep people aware of it, and it may be that if there’s enough talk about what’s important then the companies will be thoughtful and we really won’t have to get into a heavy regulatory scheme, which is hard to figure out anyway.”
While the future of internet TV is not yet written, will any of Hastings’ predictions come true? Come back in about 20 years and find out…