News Archive 2009-2018

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ’83 Among Top 50 ‘Power Players’ Archives

Reed Hastings '83

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings ’83 is  best known for changing the way people think about online entertainment, but what people may overlook is how Hastings’ innovation and international influence have earned him seats on the boards of Facebook and Microsoft, and advisory positions for several software companies and charter schools.

For these reasons, The Hollywood Reporter includes this former Bowdoin math major in its “Digital Power List” as one of the crucial “game-changers” of entertainment and digital media.

Read more about Reed Hastings in the September 23, 2011, edition of the Bowdoin Orient.

5 thoughts on “Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ’83 Among Top 50 ‘Power Players’

  1. Keith Halloran '77

    Unfortunately, the recent self-inflicted strategic decisions of Netflix have enraged their best customers even as they have lost content partners … the dramatic turn of this company’s fortunes demonstrates the impact of “creative destruction” at their own hands … they are jetizoning their original business online-mail Netflex to something called “Qwikster” (since it is now too slow) … the remaining streaming business, now called “Netflix” will soon be called “Ex-Flix.” Just you watch …

  2. Keith Halloran '77


    Like I predicted a few weeks ago here on Bowdoin Daily Sun,

    Netflex’s totally bungled re-positioning has now gone down in flames …
    Qwikster Is Dead:
    Netflix Kills DVD-Only Service
    Weeks After Unveiling It
    Qwikster Dead Netflix

    The Huffington Post Bianca Bosker First Posted: 10/10/11 08:13 AM ET Updated: 10/10/11 09:13 AM ET

    Netflix has killed off Qwikster before the the DVD-only service announced in September even launched.

    In a blog posted Monday morning, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that Netflix would pull the plug on Qwikster, citing the confusion that would arise from having a separate, DVD-only offering. Qwikster and Netflix would have operated on two separate websites without integration between the two, requiring users to pay two different companies each month, maintain two separate profiles, and post any movie reviews twice.

    “It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs,” Hastings wrote. “This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.”

    Qwikster was unpopular from the get-go among users.

    “Splitting Netflix in two so that you have Netflix and Qwikster is the worst business decision since New Coke,” wrote a disgruntled customer, one of over 27,000 who commented on Hastings’ blog post.

    The decision to launch Qwikster as a separate DVD-only business followed Netflix’s controversial price hike that did away with its $9.99 per month subscription plan offering unlimited streaming and DVD-rentals, and replaced it with two separate $7.99 per month plans offering unlimited streaming or the ability to rent one DVD at a time. In other words, what previously cost users $9.99 per month would cost them $15.98.

    When Hastings first unveiled Qwikster, he explained that the unique challenges required to market and provide DVD rentals made it necessary to operate this service as its own business:

    [W]e realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”.

    Reaction to the news it was curtains for Qwikster was mostly negative, with many commenters suggesting it was time for Hastings to step aside as CEO.

    “Wow…. time for a new CEO with all this flip flopping,” wrote one user. Another chimed in, “Reed you don’t know what you’re doing, do you? Please offer me a job, I’ve got a few easy steps to save the company.”

    One user pointed out that Qwikster had promised to offer video games to its users, yet Hastings made no mention of what would happen to these rentals and whether games would be available for rent via Netflix.

  3. Keith Halloran '77 ~~~ October 10, 2011, 8:00 am
    Netflix, in Reversal, Will Keep Its Services Together

    7:19 p.m. | Updated

    The New Coke experiment lasted less than three months. Qwikster did not even make it make it out of the bottle.

    In a swift reversal, Netflix said Monday that it had decided to keep its DVD-by-mail and online streaming services together under one name and one Web site, abandoning the breakup it had announced three weeks earlier.

    The company, which will keep a recent 60 percent price increase in place, declared that it had moved too fast when it tried to spin-off the old-fashioned DVD service into a new company called Qwikster, angering many subscribers. “We underestimated the appeal of the single Web site and a single service,” Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, said in an interview, before quickly adding: “We greatly underestimated it.”

    Some reacted on Monday by teasing Netflix and its chief executive, Reed Hastings, for being topsy-turvy, but many praised the company for, as Ingrid Chung of Goldman Sachs put it in an analysts’ note, “listening to its customers (finally) and working to fix its relationship” with them. On Monday morning, Netflix e-mailed people who recently canceled their accounts to tell them about the reversal.

    Maybe, some said, after a season of spectacular missteps, Netflix has finally figured out how to communicate effectively about its future. Or maybe now the company is just saying what its subscribers want to hear — that those who want both online streams and DVDs won’t have to manage two accounts and pay two bills each month, after all.

    Netflix stock, which has lost almost two-thirds of its value in the last three months, rose on the news on Monday morning, but declined in the afternoon, closing down 4.8 percent at $111.62.

    Richard Greenfield, a media analyst for BTIG Capital, said in an e-mail message that Monday’s announcement was the “necessary reversal of a bad decision.”

    “The key remaining question,” he said, “is ‘Why did they make the Qwikster decision in the first place?’ ”

    Netflix said it never actually separated the services or started Qwikster. But the planned breakup was rooted in Mr. Hastings’ belief that DVDs and online streams have different cost structures and different consumer demographics.

    In July, to address the structural underpinnings of the business, he announced that the company would start charging $8 a month for both its streaming service and its DVD service, a total of $16 a month for the combination. Previously, DVDs were a $2 add-on to the $8 streaming service. Of course, subscribers who only wanted one service or the other — most new subscribers only want the online streams — saw no price hike, but that fact was drowned out by the outcry.

    Netflix expected some of its 25 million subscribers to cancel in the wake of the price change, but the cancellation rate exceeded expectations. The company said on Sept. 15 that it expected to report a quarterly decline of about one million in the third quarter, which ended on Sept. 30.

    Still, it pressed forward, announcing the breakup plan the night of Sept. 17. “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly,” Mr. Hastings wrote in a blog post that night. His implication then was that Netflix had to act aggressively to expand its fast-growing streaming service by severing its older, slower DVD-by-mail arm.

    In a sentence that now seems like a bit of foreshadowing, Mr. Hastings also wrote, “It is possible we are moving too fast — it is hard to say.”

    Tens of thousands spoke out against the plan on Netflix’s Web site and others, and Netflix stock slid sharply. Three days after the announcement, Mr. Hastings wrote in a Facebook status update, “In Wyoming with 10 investors at a ranch/retreat. I think I might need a food taster. I can hardly blame them.”

    Then came the flip-flop, announced Monday. Mr. Hastings declined interview requests, but he said in a statement that “there is a difference between moving quickly — which Netflix has done very well for years — and moving too fast, which is what we did in this case.”

    Mr. Swasey declined to comment on any involvement by the Netflix board in the decision to keep the two services together.

    Some of the details of the reversal are still being deduced. Netflix’s plan for Qwikster to rent video games may or may not move forward; Mr. Swasey said that it was “to be determined.”

    On Netflix’s blog on Monday, some subscribers called for Mr. Hastings’ ouster, but others called him courageous for owning up to his mistakes. Wrote Sean Michael McCord, a systems engineer, “I was ready to call the whole thing ‘Quitster’ for me, but now I may just stick around for awhile longer.”

    Some analysts suspect that Netflix’s third-quarter losses exceeded the company’s already-lowered expectations, but the company declined to comment Monday. It will report earnings and subscriber figures on Oct. 24.

    Despite the turnaround, online streaming remains the core business for Netflix going forward. A lack of compelling films and TV shows on the streaming service is a frequent lament, and it is likely to grow louder next winter: that’s when Sony and Disney films are expected to be removed, the result of a failed negotiation with Starz.

    But Netflix is trying to stock up on more streaming content; last month it announced a deal with DreamWorks Animation to stream that studio’s films starting in 2013, and last week it announced a deal with AMC Networks to stream old episodes of TV shows like “The Walking Dead.” The company also remains interested in paying for the production of new TV shows. Earlier this year it ordered its first original drama, “House of Cards,” which is expected to have its premiere in late 2012.

    It is now in talks to distribute new episodes of two canceled TV series, “Arrested Development,” formerly of the Fox network, and “Reno 911,” formerly of Comedy Central. The past seasons of both shows can be streamed via Netflix — and can be rented on DVD, too.

  4. Keith Halloran '77

    Saturday Night Live Extra:
    Charlie Rose Tribute To Steve Jobs With Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington, Reed Hastings & Rupert Murdoch (VIDEO)

    It’s well known that not every sketch performed during SNL’s dress rehearsal makes it to the live broadcast, but occasionally those cut sketches find new life on the Internet.

    Here’s one from the most recent episode with host Anna Faris, in which Charlie Rose (Bill Hader) pays tribute to the legacy of Steve Jobs, along with his guests Mark Zuckerberg (Andy Samberg), Arianna Huffington (Nasim Pedrad), Reed Hastings (Jason Sudeikis) and Rupert Murdoch (Fred Armisen).

    One by one, each of the media moguls reveals how very unlike Jobs they are in their own posts, with the biggest laughs coming from Armisen’s gleefully evil and unapologetic Murdoch.

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