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Netflix CEO Open to AT&T-Time Warner Merger if Net Neutrality Is Upheld

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings signaled that his company wasn’t outright opposing the AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Monday night.

Hastings cautioned that the deal is still very new, and that not all the implications are clear yet. But he also argued that it’s all about preserving an equal playing field. “As long as HBO’s bits and Netflix’s bits are treated the same, that would be a starting point,” he said. “The key thing is with us net neutrality.”

Netflix has in the past been a vocal opponent of some big media and telco mergers, notably opposing the proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast; however, the company subsequently spoke out in support of Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Asked whether Netflix would be looking to acquire content companies of its own, Hastings said that he is constantly getting approached by bankers, despite not having any interest at all in it. “We don’t take any of the calls, any of the meetings,” he said.

Hastings also reiterated that Netflix was sticking with movies and TV shows, and not looking to branch out in news or sports. Instead, he said, Netflix is looking to further integrate vertically, and actually produce its own content instead of buying its originals from other studios.

He went on to say that as Netflix grows globally, it is increasingly focusing on high-end content. “As distribution grows, the high end grows,” he said. That’s in part because YouTube and others already have the low end covered, he argued.

Netflix may one day spend twice as much on TV shows as HBO is spending on “Game of Thrones.” Asked Hastings: “What does $20-million-an-hour television look like?”

However, Hastings also half-joked that entertainment consumption habits could fundamentally change, to the point where consumers may decide to one day use drugs for immersive experiences, instead of relaxing in front of their TV. “Then it’s time to sell at AT&T,” he quipped.

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