Netflix, HBO execs talk binge-viewing

HBO Go, Netflix offer contrasting views to streaming TV

Top execs from HBO and Netflix offered contrasting perspectives on the value of binge-viewing in separate appearances Tuesday at the D: Dive into Media conference.

HBO president/COO Eric Kessler downplayed the appeal of releasing multiple episodes all at once, as Netflix did recently for original series “House of Cards.”

“It’s really a small percentage,” he said of viewing activity on HBO Go, the premium channel’s digital platform.

What little binge viewing occurs on HBO Go, said Kessler, is when viewers are trying to catch up to a series that has already begun a run of original episodes on air or when subs first sign up and watch a series that is no longer in circulation on HBO.

Kessler indicated that the traditional weekly episode installments help drive buzz, particularly across social media, that giving a series momentum through its finale episode. “For us, what was much more important is for fans to engage in social conversations every week,” he said.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos stayed true to the company’s no-ratings policy but noted that nearly every subscriber who watched the first episode of “Cards” have gone on to watch subsequent episodes.

“That’s a great sign that people are enjoying it, and getting sucked into it,” he said.

In addition, he indicated that the drama series is the most popular program on Netflix in every region where the streaming service operates.

Sarandos expressed skepticism that HBO subs are being best served in the traditional scheduling mode.

“I don’t think we have very different subscribers,” he said, noting significant overlap between the HBO and Netflix audiences. “All of our subscribers watch multiple episodes. Nobody watches the way HBO feeds them. Nobody watches Sunday at 9 p.m. Nobody does that. Thats zero.”

Sarandos was joined at the Dana Point, Calif.-based conference by Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett, executive producer and star of “Arrested Development,” the sitcom that is being revived on Netflix later this year.

Arnett suggested Netflix is making waves in Hollywood. “They’re allowing the creative community to do what they do best,” he said. “It’s very inviting to people in the creative community to have a venue like this, a place like Netflix. It’s making everyone else quite nervous.”