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Reed Hastings: Netflix Does Stories for Every Screen, Not Mobile-Optimized Content

Variety logo Variety 2/27/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings thinks that mobile screens aren’t just for snackable content. “I watched ‘The Crown’ on mobile, and it was incredible,” he said during a keynote fireside chat at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday, adding with a smirk: “When I told the writer Peter Morgan about that, he was aghast.”

The point Hastings tried to make with that anecdote was that Netflix isn’t looking to produce mobile-optimized videos. “We don’t design for mobile,” he said. Instead, the company is trying to make sure that all of its shows and movies look as good as possible on mobile devices, where bandwidth is often limited.

“What we have done is invest in the codecs,” Hastings said. By optimizing video encoding, Netflix aims to give consumers good-looking streams at a fraction of the bandwidth that HD video used to take, and cut down on buffering at the same time. Having no noticeable delays before a show starts “really changes your relationship to the service,” Hastings said.

That being said, Hastings didn’t rule out that Netflix may change its tune if viewing habits evolve, or other technologies emerge. After having been dismissive of virtual reality in the past, Hastings said Monday that it could be on the horizon for the future: “If virtual reality takes off, we will adapt to that.” He also said that Netflix may look at vertical video “some day.”

Speaking of Netflix’s increasingly global programming, Hastings said that the company is starting to see shows not made in the U.S. or Western Europe succeed in those markets. The example he cited was “3%,” a Brazilian Sci-Fi drama that has done well in the U.S., Germany and Spain, according to Hastings.

Asked where Netflix will be in 15 or 20 years, Hastings quipped that Netflix may have to find a new role in a world transformed by artificial intelligence (AI): “I’m not sure if we are going to be entertaining you or entertaining AIs.“

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