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Netflix cable platform may be a long way off

March 12, 2012 | 10:08 am

Netflix cable plans may take awhile
Don't bank on Netflix launching a cable service any time soon.

Last week, a Reuters story speculating that Netflix was planning to create a cable distribution platform for its movies and television shows drew a lot of attention. That article grew out of comments that Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings made at an analyst conference where he said down the road he could see his company launching a competitor to HBO. 

In the scenario floated by Reuters, Netflix would offer its content in an on-demand format, not as a linear channel. In other words, consumers would go to the channel and see a list of programs from which to choose. It would not be a regular channel with a schedule of shows. 

However, Netflix itself is downplaying the speculation and there seems to be little, if any, interest in carrying such a service from the biggest multichannel video programming distributors including Comcast Corp. and satellite broadcaster DirecTV, people familiar with their thinking said.

Most distributors already have on-demand channels with similar content to what Netflix would be offering. Furthermore, cable and satellite broadcasters view Netflix as a competitor and have little incentive to let them in the door.

There is an even bigger fly in the ointment. Executives from some studios and networks that sell content to Netflix, who spoke on background, said Netflix couldn't create an on-demand cable channel under the terms of its current deals. Netflix would have to restructure its content agreements if it wanted to offer its service on more than an online platform.

None of this is to say that Netflix won't eventually find a way to get its service on cable systems, either in on-demand or linear form. But before that could happen, there would be a lot of hurdles to overcome, on both the distribution and programming fronts.


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-- Joe Flint

Photo: Reed Hastings. Credit: Norm Betts / Bloomberg.