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Reed Hastings Supports AT&T, Time Warner Union — With a Caveat

25 Oct, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Reed Hastings

Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said he approves AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner provided there are safeguards in place mandating equality (i.e. net neutrality) when it comes to delivering the subscription streaming video pioneer versus HBO online to consumers.

Speaking last night (Oct. 24) at the 2016 WSJDLive confab in Laguna Beach, Calif., Hastings reminded attendees AT&T is not a fan of the FCC’s recent net neutrality guidelines that mandate all broadband traffic be treated equally by distributors, which include cable, satellite and telecom.

The AT&T, Time Warner merger links the telecom’s U-verse pay-TV network, DirecTV subsidiary and mobile distribution with Time Warner properties that include Warner Bros., Turner and HBO.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in comments regarding the acquisition, said he remains opposed to net neutrality but would adhere to FCC guidelines. The CEO said restricting consumer access to content wouldn’t make business sense.

Hastings remains unconvinced. 

“The key thing is whether there is going to be net neutrality, which hasn’t been AT&T’s favorite topic. If they got there … then good things might happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hastings dismissed scuttlebutt Netflix is focused on reaching 1 billion subscribers globally.

“That’s not a goal at all. Our goal is to make our current members happy, and then we’ll see how fast we grow.”

When chided as corporate speak by the moderator, Hastings doubled down on the sub-first mentality.

“No, it’s what we feel and what we say inside. We just try to build the best content we have for 14 years since we went public in 2002.”

Hastings said the SVOD service would bypass news and live sports and continue to focus on original TV shows and movies, including branching out into talk shows (“Chelsea”), standup comedy (Chris Rock, Aziz Ansari, Hannibal Buress, etc.) and reality competitions such as “Ultimate Beastmaster,” a 10-episode program similar to “American Ninja Warrior,” that will incorporate globally viewer feedback.


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