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The Netflix Chief’s Plan to Get You to Binge Even More

Well, what you did was, you threw out some of the company’s longstanding core principles, chief among them, not having advertisers. You introduced an ad-supported subscription tier. Did that feel like a real turn, betraying the identity of the company? It really wasn’t that we were “core principles” against advertising, it’s just that no advertising was our counterposition to television, the way that no late fees was our counterposition to video stores in our DVD days. What don’t people like about TV? Watching the ads and waiting a week for the next episode. We realized though, in this world of unlimited choice, what we didn’t do is give a choice to people who didn’t mind advertising at all and wanted a lower price. So for us, we thought that it was actually market-expanding to give more choice to folks if they wanted a lower price and they didn’t mind ads.

I want to ask you a little bit more about you as a leader. In 2020, you supported Black Lives Matter. During the invasion of Ukraine, you pulled Netflix out of Russia. It seems, though, that corporate activism is on its way out. I’m wondering how you’re thinking about that? When you think about diversity, diversity should be all things, including diversity of thought, which makes political activism of companies very difficult, because people have different opinions and different ideas and different thoughts, and you’re representing a lot of different constituencies. So I think companies should be very, very careful about how they insert themselves into these discussions. Sometimes when it’s just a matter of pretty simple, pure black and white, right and wrong — I think pulling out of Russia was a much clearer decision above anything we’ve ever done. It’s impossible to do business in Russia without being in business with that government. So for me, that was kind of a no-brainer decision. I didn’t view it as political. I viewed it as quite impractical to do anything but.

You’ve seen other companies in Hollywood — Disney, among others — and we’re seeing Google now, crack down on activism within their company. You say it’s a difficult balancing act. As a company that tries to be all things to all people, how do you navigate that? People have very different sensibilities about the world. I think that it’s one of those things where it’s very hard to say that our view would represent the views of all of our members and all of our employees. I think that would be a very high bar to clear, but that is the bar I would like it to clear. And by the way, I don’t know why that happened over the last couple of years where people looked to corporate leaders to do those things. They didn’t used to.

Do you see Netflix now as middle-aged? Middle-aged might be too old.

Sorry about that. Speaking for myself here. If I’m going to live to 120, I’m middle-aged. But I think the business is maturing, of course. And I think it’s taking on different characteristics.

So who is your competitor now? We compete for screen time. Social media, including YouTube, other streaming apps, gaming.

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