Don't count on Netflix as net neutrality's savior

Reed Hastings co-founder and CEO of Netflix

Michael Newberg | CNBC Reed Hastings co-founder and CEO of Netflix

While Netflix doesn't release any numbers for streaming data, Hastings hinted at what criteria the service takes into account when canceling a show.

"Sometimes the establishment is clumsy" when trying to squeeze out the up-and-comers "and it's the insurgents role to play that up", he said. Faced with a full-scale Trumpian assault on net neutrality, Netflix seems more than happy to throw in the towel. How are they doing so many business areas so well?

Netflix's rapid rise from a mail order DVD rental service in 1997 to become the dominant global video streaming service has taken the world by storm and now they have almost 100 million people on their books. While Netflix has heretofore been known for nearly always renewing series for at least two seasons - the recent axing of The Get Down was the outlier - Hastings told CNBC on Wednesday that he thinks the service has had too many successful series of late.

"They're awfully scary", Hastings said Wednesday on CNBC's Squawk Box when asked whether the Seattle company, which has recently been investing billions in streaming content that competes directly with Netflix, was his biggest threat. "So, we've canceled very few shows. So you want to watch the game, but the afterlife of a given show is quite small", Hastings said Wednesday at Recode's Code Conference, adding that it's the binge-viewing experience that is transformative. "I mean, it was a great show, but we didn't realise just how it would catch on".

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In other words, Netflix still has a dog in the net neutrality debate, but it has much bigger dogs in other fights, and it's choosing to focus on them. "We can't try to be them. We are trying to be Starbucks, and they are trying to be Walmart".

In the interview, Hastings reiterated that Netflix still plans to keep increasing its spending budget for content. The company announced it would be investing $6 billion into original programming last year-a staggering number second only to ESPN's.

Speaking at a conference this week in California, the CEO stated that while Netflix thinks net neutrality is "incredibly important", it's "not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want".

Hastings clarified that he doesn't believe Netflix "picked" a fight with Cannes, but the controversy worked out as free press for the two films, which "got it on their own, on artistic merit".

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