Netflix Has “Won” Streaming, But Disney Has “Best Chance” To Compete, Barry Diller Says


Netflix has “won the game” as far as streaming, according to media mogul Barry Diller, but among its soon-to-launch rivals, he said Disney has “the best chance” to apply pressure.

Diller made the comments during a CNBC interview Wednesday in Sun Valley, ID, where he’s attending Allen & Co.’s annual retreat. (See full video below.)

“No one is going to compete with Netflix in gross subscribers,” Diller said. “I believe they have won the game. … There’s nothing I can see that’s going to dislodge them.”

The assessment from Diller is not completely new. During a podcast interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher in February, the IAC chairman and former studio boss at Fox called Hollywood “irrelevant.” He went on to say, “Those who chase Netflix are fools.” In the months since, the streaming derby only has grown more dynamic. Disney and Apple have announced details of their plans, with Disney locking up control of Hulu. WarnerMedia has articulated a combo model with ad-supported and subscription versions under the newly minted name HBO Max. NBCUniversal, meanwhile, is favoring advertising and its 50 million-plus pay-TV homes with its streaming approach.

Of all of the contenders, Diller said, “Disney has the best chance because of its very, very popular content. … Will they ever get to Netflix? I don’t think so. But I don’t think it matters much.”

Diller marveled at the idea that “two complete outsiders” — Netflix and Amazon — “have come along and totally upended what was a stable business.” Owning a movie studio, Diller said, in a past era meant that “you had a worldwide franchise. Now, you have an arms race.”

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Asked by reporter Julia Boorstin whether Netflix would suffer from the loss of library titles such as Friends (which is headed to HBO Max) or The Office (to NBCUniversal) or Disney films and shows, Diller shook his head. “No, I don’t think so,” he said.

The executive also disputed the notion that more M&A is the necessary course for somewhat smaller entities such as CBS, Viacom, Lionsgate and others. “I don’t think the smaller players are necessarily endangered,” he said. “All of broadcasting is endangered because what has happened with streaming and other services is that the only people who are willing to watch commercials are the people who can’t afford the goods that are being sold. So that’s an existential, long-term issue.”

Here’s the segment:

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