I have a hard time buying Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ statement that his company is trying to become HBO faster than HBO can become Netflix. It made for a good soundbite, but Hastings misrepresented his company and HBO to achieve said bite, because the two focus on very different things. In reality, Netflix is trying to redirect your desire for content it can’t access which, for now, just so happens to include HBO.
Sure, Netflix has begun putting serious money behind original content. But have you seen the rest of Netflix’s continually expanding, seemingly non-discriminatory catalog? It carriers Barb Wire. On purpose.
HBO’s focus isn’t nearly as broad—it’s an original content network that does high-caliber stuff like Game of Thrones and The Wire. While Netflix is becoming a destination for all types of networks, studios, content, and viewers, HBO focuses on premium content for specific audiences.
Put another way, Netflix wants to be the Walmart or Amazon of streaming video, HBO wants to be the Apple Store. Netflix is happy to carry premium content like HBO’s, just like Walmart carriers the iPhone. But Netflix also carries garbage because it wants to have something for everyone. In contrast, HBO doesn’t seem to have any interest in, say, Jersey Shore or the kind of b-budget movies you catch on SyFy on a Saturday afternoon.
Netflix is racing towards a streaming video, on-demand future where it carries something for everyone, whether HBO comes along for the ride or not. Since Netflix has thus far not been able to get HBO, it is now trying to obviate your need for it altogether. HBO isn’t trying to become Netflix, it just needs to wise up and find a way to work with it.