Netflix: ‘The Interview’ Showed Movies Can Coexist Online And In Theaters

Sony’s experience offering The Interview simultaneously online and in theaters following last year’s hacking imbroglio whetted Netflix appetite for doing the same with other films, execs said today in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

The fictitious comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un generated $45 million, primarily from video on demand, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos says. As a result, Sony “took what could have been a financial disaster and turned it into a financial win.” CEO Reed Hastings added that while he’s “sorry about the circumstances” — which included anonymous threats of violence at theaters showing The Interview — it reinforced his desire to make movies that “push the windows up.”

Major exhibition chains have said that they want to show new films exclusively, and won’t offer ones that Netflix plans to stream as well including Beasts of No Nation and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Last year Netflix signed commedian Adam Sandler to a four-movie deal.

Also in the call, execs reiterated their hope that federal regulators will block Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. That’s “our main goal” in Washington, Hastings says.

He praised the FCC for reclassifying the Internet as a phone-like regulated communications utility in order to establish a legal foundation for its new net neutrality rules. “It is a utility,” the CEO says. “It is like power distribution. It’s a natural monopoly in the last mile.”

Execs also said that they have little interest in adding live sports to the Netflix line-up. The company’s consumer proposition is built on offering content on-demand. “Sports is great for live television,” Sarandos says.

Hastings adds that he’d be glad to see someone else offer sports online, to help entice pay TV subscribers to cancel that service in favor of Web-delivered programming. “If we can anchor the entertainment side…then the Internet TV proposition is even more powerful for consumers.”

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