Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was happy to have the fight Netflix found itself in with French theater chains this month at the Cannes Film Festival — it just gave his company’s two competition films Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories more exposure, he said today. He also doubled down against the exhibition business, again predicting the demise of theatrical windows.
The comments came during a session with Hastings at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, where he also discussed the streaming service’s foray into movies — “TV and movies are actually very similar” to produce, he said — but admitted Netflix brass overestimated the ability to crack the China market.
As for Cannes, where French exhibs pressured festival officials over the inclusion of the Netflix movies because Netflix doesn’t show its movies in theaters, Hastings said it only helped. “Yeah, It’ been fantastic for us, and most importantly for Okja and Meyerowitz Stories, which are small films that are very artistic. This [controversy] will give them a lot more awareness.”
The films screened to positive reviews on the Croisette, notable since Hastings said the pair were selected to the official lineup on artistic merit.
As for those exhibitors’ theatrical windows, Hastings was as clear as ever about his vision of their future. They are “absolutely” breaking down, he said, adding “Ultimately, consumer choice is a very powerful force.”
“We’re in a transition period where the movie theater chains around the world are not willing to allow consumers to choose, but eventually they will,” he said. “So big movies will come out and they’ll be on Netflix and on Amazon … and also in theaters. If you want a communal experience with your friends, you’ll go to the theater, just like you’d go to a restaurant even though you know how to cook.”
In the wide-ranging discussion with Recode’s Peter Kafka, Hastings also admitted that Netflix “probably assessed it wrong” in getting into China, saying they had hoped to operate in every country in the world. China has proven tougher. “We had our natural optimism that was slowly beat down,” he said.
Hastings also didn’t seem too moved about sports rights given Netflix’s focus on binge viewing. “Sports is really good in a moment — but the afterlife is quite small. The Internet doesn’t enhance the experience.”
He got the biggest applause from the audience when Kafka asked whether advertising on the site was in the works, which might help fund Netflix’s growing original content ambitions. “No plans,” he said without hesitation.