Q&A: Netflix Still Remains Neutral in Disc War

Steve Swasey is vice president for corporate communications at Netflix, which has more than 7 million subscribers who rent DVD discs via the mail and streaming, tapping into the firm’s library of about 90,000 titles. He spoke this week with HD Notebook:

HD Notebook: Netflix has been renting Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD titles as a small part of your overall disc rental business. Will the recent announcement by Warner Brothers that it will rely exclusively on Blu-ray for its next-gen disc content affect your business model?

Swasey: We are agnostic in the format war. We’re neutral. We’re Switzerland. We’ll let the consumer eventually decide what happens in the future as far the battle among both formats.

HD Notebook: So Netflix will remain totally agnostic for now?

Swasey: Yes, that’s correct.

HD Notebook: You announced a recent deal with LGE about streaming content directly to boxes and bypassing computers. Will this scheme eventually include HD?

Swasey: Down the road this will include HD, yes. We want to bring movie and other content directly to the TV set. We’re a technology company and we’ll adapt to any innovations that come alone, so we’re in a hybrid stage right now and will continue to adapt and to offer more streaming content. This includes, some day, more HD.

HD Notebook: This week, Netflix announced unlimited streaming of a few thousand titles for most of your current subs at no extra charge. As far as HD streaming, there really is not enough bandwidth in the United States right now in the current scheme of things to stream HD to many people, is there?

Swasey: Right now the issues are both technological and content [availability]. The technology exists, but it’s not as viable now as it will be five years from now. And we only have a few thousand titles encoded right now for streaming—maybe up to 6,000 out of some 90,000 titles overall. But right now, eight out of our nine subscription plans have begun to include unlimited streaming of those titles we do have available.