There was a pleasant nip in the air at the picturesque Laguna Beach, serving as the perfect backdrop for an open-air dinner on the lawns of the Montage resort, the venue for The Wall Street Journal’s marquee annual tech event WSJD Live. Even as the guests were sampling the lavish spread, Reed Hastings walked up the dais for a chat with a WSJ host. It was just days after Netflix had announced its third quarter earnings and the numbers were good enough to keep the 56-year-old founder of the paid video streaming juggernaut in good humour. Belying investor expectations, Netflix had announced the addition of 0.4 million members in the US and 3.2 million internationally. “We [will] collect about 8 billion dollars of customers’ money and so thank you all [gesturing at the audience] for giving me your money. This money is in a trust to create joy…if a show costs 100 million dollars, how much joy, how much viewing it creates among the audience. If you are happy and tell your friends, we have more money next year to turn into more joy. We think of ourselves as [an] alchemist, we take in money and out comes joy,” said Hastings, even as he urged the audience to watch Netflix’s new show The Crown.
Clearly, America’s iconic CEO knows what the audience wants. At the recent 74th Golden Globes, The Crown, based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, ended up winning the best TV drama award even as leading lady Claire Foy took home the honours as the best actress. The Crown is the first time that Netflix has come out on top in the TV drama category after nominations in the past for House of Cards, Narcos, and Stranger Things. Even as its original shows are garnering acclaim in the US, Hastings now wants the whole world to watch Netflix. Today, the video streaming major is available across the globe and is inching towards the 100 million subscriber mark from the current 87 million, with the US market accounting for a majority (47 million). Early last year, it added 130 more countries, barring China and North Korea, in its fold. Besides its marquee movie library, Netflix is now increasingly relying on originals to woo the audience. “As much good as they are today, five years from now we want them to be much better,” says Hastings, who has given Ted Sarandos, the chief content architect, a free hand in scripting its bouquet