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 Amazon.com 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.