Hastings: Originals not crucial for Netflix yet

CEO says series more material in long term

Original programming is important to Netflix–just not that important yet, according to Reed Hastings.

The Netflix CEO sought a a tricky balancing act at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Monday, touting the success of “House of Cards” but downplaying the short-term impact the series will have on Netflix.

With the hype at fever pitch over the drama starring Kevin Spacey, Hastings seemed to be tweaking the optics on his company to keep investors more focused on the licensed library at the core of the streaming service.

“It’s not the center of the company,” cautioned Hastings. “It may be the center of the PR for a while and that’s ok but i don’t want you guys to think that suddenly we’re the original content company.”

But in the same breath as Hastings expressed modesty about “Cards,” he was quick to talk up the potential original programming holds for Netflix in the long term.

“Over five years and 10 years we’ll build some really big franchises,” predicted Hastings. “It could become quite material but as of today think of it as a confirming down payment as opposed to an inflection point where with one season of one show we’ve changed everything.”

Hastings echoed previous comments from Netflix execs that “Cards” is currently the most-watched program on the streaming service, though didn’t offer much in the way of specifics.

But then he cited his own previous frequently made comments about how Netflix doesn’t draw its strength from any one program on the service, referencing a statistic demonstrating that the previous licensing deal the company had for Disney films didn’t account for more than 2% of viewing a year ago.

“Its a big part of our press but it’s not big part of total viewing or why a subscriber joins,” he said of “Cards.”

Hastings drew a distinction between “Cards”–which he compared to “Harry Potter” in its potential for establishing a long-term franchise–to “Arrested Development,” the revival of the Fox sitcom. While he envisions a series like “Cards” going on for as many seasons as Netflix can come to agreement on with rights-holder Media Rights Capital, “Arrested” will be contained to its initial episode order from 20th Century Fox. “It’s a fantastic one-off that is coming together incredibly,” he said.

Hastings had less to say about “Arrested” than about the next original project Netflix has lined up after “House of Cards”: the horror series “Hemlock Grove,” which premieres in April.

The Netflix CEO explained that Netflix reaches a broad array of demographics, and “Grove” isn’t aimed at the influencer crowd that drew raves from critics.

“It’s completely different,” Hastings warned. “For many people in this audience, you’ll be grossed out.

He went on to describe the gore being cooked up by “Grove” executive producer Eli Roth.

“I’ve seen in my life 30 or 40 werewolf transformations. What Eli Roth does in reinterpreting that and making it more incredible and grosser than ever before, it’s stunning.”

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