Reed Hastings

It looks like Jeff Bezos & Co. have finally gotten Reed Hastings’ attention, or at least gotten Hastings to show that he’s feeling the competitive heat.

The Netflix CEO previously made a habit of downplaying the competition from in the online video market, saying as recently as July that his company had yet to see Amazon or Hulu gain “meaningful traction” in viewing hours.

However, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, published this morning, Hastings is far more pointed. Here’s an excerpt.

In the U.S., our content budget is about three times [Amazon’s], and we’ve got about three times more content. And what our customers tell us is they want Netflix to have more content, not to have two-thirds less at a lower price. That’s not that interesting a proposition for them. [Amazon has its Prime membership service] and it’s really about low-cost shipping, but why is video in there? It’s kind of a confusing mess.

We can do a better user experience on video because it’s our only business. The way we do algorithms to choose which content is shown to you is much better than Amazon’s, much better than Hulu’s. They’ve got talented teams, but they’re doing a lot of other things and we’re focused on this one area.

The comments by Hastings come a couple weeks after Amazon struck a deal with Viacom’s Epix premium cable channel for thousands of movies that had previously been exclusive to Netflix.

Amazon offers an online “Instant Video” catalog of more than 120,000 movies and TV episodes for rental and purchase, and a subset of those (more than 25,000 movies and TV episodes at last count) are available at no extra charge to people who subscribe to Amazon’s $79/year Prime subscription service, which also includes free shipping and Kindle book rentals.

CNet News notes that the most pointed of Hastings’ comments about Amazon aren’t included in the print edition of the WSJ piece.

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  • MikeH

    Actually, Amazon has the same OLD lame movies that Netflix has. But, I can rent a new movie from Amazon and stream it right to my machine. Can’t do that with Netflix. Got to wait for the lame dvd to arrive and that is after waiting 45 or 50 days because of agreements with the studio.

    I canceled NetFlix and went Amazon. Come on $80 bucks, 2 day ship and free LAME old movies. I’m in. You lost Netflix…

  • guest

    This is the kind of competitor dismissiveness that has hurt MS so badly. Seems like Hastings has spent too much time around Ballmer.

  • Guest

    I went through my DVD movie queue and found that Amazon had about 5% of it to stream for free. Netflix had about 10%. I can’t really call that a win for Netflix when both companies get an F- for streaming movie availability.

  • Kevin Pierce

    I am both a Netflix and an Amazon Prime subscriber, and Hastings speaks the truth.

    On my Sony Bluray player’s user interface to Netflix, content is categorized and searchable, and even if arranged algorithmically, hints at some effort to curate.

    Amazon, on the other hand, is a mess. They don’t even list episodes of a TV show in sequential order – that’s really not asking much. And it doesn’t end there – while I may be a Prime subscriber, good luck finding what I want to see. I take the attitude with Amazon that, because streaming is a “bonus” for Prime Subscribers, in some perverse way, they don’t really want you to take advantage of it – they just like the idea of advertising it – not delivering it. Amazon has a bigger selection overall, but much of the “good stuff” is PPV, and the downside of their PPV is a 24 hour rental period, so if you want to watch something spanning 2 evenings in a row, you have to rent it twice – not cool – 30, or 48 or even 72 hours would make much more sense.
    As for Netflix, I would really appreciate some better (read: less all-or-nothing) parental controls. You have to go by rating. So I must go to my web browser to set up my account for children’s only content, and the on the TV, that content choice is enforced, but even then, there’s so much crap that passes for children’s programming.

    Specifically, unless I have entered an unlock PIN, the default policy for NetFlix streaming should be a folder of content which I have opted IN for, as in I built a playlist and that’s all that is available, or a category with the option to opt out of titles as I choose. Their current parental controls have no way of opting in or out of certain content.

    • Guest

      Please don’t expect Netflix to police your children’s video watching. If you’re naïve enough to let your children have unsupervised access to the Internet, no cocktail of filters and controls will prevent your child’s mind from being corrupted.

      • Kevin Pierce

        You assume my children have unsupervised access to the Internet. I mention that Netflix could be better by providing the means for ME to police my children’s video viewing, instead of their current approach, and then I extend that to say that an integrated approach would also do, and I offer to pay for it.

  • B Sharp

    I’m a former Netflix subscriber and a current Amazon Prime subscriber, and Hastings’ is telling us a half-truth- another half-assed attempt at spin control.

    Netflix’ recommendation algorithm gave me great suggestions: all of them things I’ve already watched. Netflix removes my ability to see everything in their library, and conveniently decides for me what sort of content I should watch. Netflix also requires a mandatory arbitration clause with no way to opt-out (I guess they’re concerned about the next user revolt).

    Amazon’s selection is certainly less…robust than Netflix’ in terms of overall quantity, but I can still find a lot of interesting things to watch. In terms of delivery, the reliability of streaming from Amazon is slightly better, and the quality is excellent. Yep, the Amazon search capability, sortings, and so on are really sub-par…but that’s all ‘fixable’ stuff. I also wish Amazon had an Android player app!

    So, bottom line: My thought is that Amazon is cheaper, better on delivery, equal on the availability of quality content, and needs some work on the software end. Netflix on the other hand needs to a) get a new CEO / spokesmodel, and b) actually use the algorithm that they got through the contest, and c) lose the attitude.

  • DVDs are better

    Honestly, the content selection for both is sparse at best. NetFlix is better but Kevin Pierce is right when he says the parental controls on NetFlix are barely there. What’s missing?

    restrict just what kids can watch and bypass it for adults.
    approve exceptions for specific videos for kids
    let parents to view kid’s video history while not letting kids view parent’s history
    restrict hours of access for kids

  • Capt.tagon

    What was all shiny and new is now broken. Amazon Video not available over Android any longer unless you want to hack your device and run an old rotting insecure version of Flash, so if you thought you were going the Amazon Prime Video streaming route, you’ll have to go buy an iPhone, iPad or one of Bezos Kindle book burners. Netflix still available for Android.

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