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Netflix CES Keynote Heralds 'The Birth of a New Global Internet TV Network'

6 Jan, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at CES opening keynote

SVOD pioneer takes center stage at CES opening keynote, announces service in 130 additional countries

Netflix's burgeoning global brand, co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings and CCO Ted Sarandos took center stage at the Consumer Electronics Show opening keynote Jan. 6 in Las Vegas.

With 70 million subscribers at the end of 2015, including 12 billion hours of video content streamed at the end of the year compared with more than 8 billion hours at the end of 2014, Hastings said the Netflix user interface (UI) is now available in 17 languages.

“We’re at the start of a global revolution,” Hastings said. “We live in an on-demand world and there’s no going back.”

During the keynote, the CEO proudly exclaimed Netflix had just launched service in 130 countries (notably absent: China) — bringing its global footprint to 190 countries — just 10 countries shy of a previously stated goal of 200 countries by the end of the year. Countries without Netflix include North Korea, Syria and Crimea.

“Today you are witnessing the birth of a new global Internet TV network,” Hastings said. “With this launch, consumers around the world — from Singapore to St. Petersburg, from San Francisco to Sao Paulo — will be able to enjoy TV shows and movies simultaneously — no more waiting. With the help of the Internet, we are putting power in consumers’ hands to watch whenever, wherever and on whatever device.”

At a post-keynote press conference, Hastings compared the 130-nation launch with giving birth. "The real work will be in the next 20 years." The CEO was asked what was more difficult: Launching original content or global expansion. Hastings said greenlighting "House of Cards" was a more difficult decision than international expansion.

Sarandos called the "House of Cards" deal, "a blind leap."

He said Netflix would stream 600 hours of original content in 2016, including as self-proclaimed leader-creator of content in 4K Ultra HD resolution. Netflix also plans to incorporate high dynamic range (HDR) imaging into 4K streaming later this year. Hastings said the cost required to deliver content in 4K with HDR to just one subscriber is negligible.

Sarandos said that when the costs of digital delivery and by-mail DVD intersected eight years ago, he knew the subscription streaming market and Internet television had begun. He said that unlike linear TV, which he said is predicated on hitting home runs through hit shows, Netflix succeeds by hitting singles, doubles and home runs.

The CCO reiterated that Netflix’s decision to release original movies in theaters and global streaming concurrently isn’t anti-theater, but rather pro-movie. That strategy has angered many theater chains, which have boycotted Netflix releases. Regardless, Sarandos said Netflix's relationship with studios remains "fantastic."

“The Internet allows us to redefine what is possible. It’s the [current distribution] business models that stand in the way,” Sarandos said.

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