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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Was Afraid Amazon Would Buy HBO, Discusses Disrupting Hollywood

Stephanie Sengwe

It is no secret that Netflix has found major success as so much of the world has been uncertain this year. From releasing wildly popular content such as “Tiger King,” “365 Days” and “Extraction,” to aligning themselves with Hollywood’s elite such as Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, the streaming giant has not only found success during a difficult time, but they have blown their competition out of the water while doing it. It seems all the company’s efforts over the years were for this moment as the world has been forced to stay at home and engage with content more than ever before.

“The key is embracing managing on the edge of chaos,” Hastings told Variety while promoting his book, “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.”

Hastings also revealed that while Netflix is on top now, the company has always had its eye on the competition. “Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube all launched in the 2005-2007 period. So those four have been competing for 14 years now. We compete through focus… Amazon [is trying] to be Walmart. We’re more a passion brand; we’re more like online Starbucks or something,” Hastings stated.

“We’re a real entertainment brand, much more like HBO. The old fear used to be Amazon buys HBO — because it’s then Amazon-powered but entertainment-focused. But that never happened. We compete with them by doing great content. You know, pleasing people, but really it’s the focus of the brand — that’s what people talk about.”

Though Netflix has become the go-to place for any tech, or entertainment fanatic, it didn’t start out that way as people didn’t see the streamer as a company that would shift the industry the way it has. When it came to signing on talent, Netflix had a different strategy.

“In the beginning we were able to attract rebellious folks, the folks that were stifled by the studio environment or hadn’t gone far enough in the system to be ruined,” Patty McCord, Netflix’s chief talent officer, told Forbes. “We just wrote big checks. ‘I know it seems crazy. I know you don’t get a personal assistant. You don’t get a parking spot. How about we give you this big shitpile of money?’ ”

Now, a headliner in the industry, Neflix has become a hub for some of Hollywood’s biggest talents. They have signed on creatives such Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy and Ava Duveray and have created originals starring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Jennifer Aniston, Chris Hemsworth and the late Chadwick Boseman, just to name a few.

With the pandemic still at large, Netflix is prepared to readjust for the upcoming year. “This year, we’ve got ‘The Crown’ [Season 4, premiering Nov. 15] and other originals; that’s all stuff filmed pre-COVID. Next year, we’ve planned out the year — we’ve got a great selection of content. It’s still more originals than this year. It’s not up by as much as we first forecast, but it is up on a year-over-year basis. Of course in Europe we’re producing, in Asia we’re producing. We’re all hopeful for a vaccine, so we can get back to more intensive work,” Hastings told Variety.