Netflix to Hit 100 Million Subscribers Worldwide Soon, CEO Says

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

More than half come from the company's international expansion.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the online streaming service will soon hit the 100 million subscriber mark worldwide, with half coming from international markets.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as Monday afternoon’s keynote speaker, Hastings spoke of how the company has learned to adapt from its expansion into 130 countries worldwide.

“We are passionate about collecting the world’s best content and sharing. The breadth of taste is amazing,” Hastings said, referring to the success of Brazilian thriller 3%, which he said has done well in the U.S., Germany and Spain and the upcoming Spanish-language Cable Girls.

Hastings emphasized that the company “has a lot to learn” with respect to coding and interfacing to constantly improve, and said that “we’ve learned so much around the world from having to adapt to different technologies.

The CEO said Netflix has invested in the codecs to optimize video encoding at a fraction of the bandwidth, and has spoken with mobile networks that are looking to offer a better experience so consumers can watch videos with less data usage.

Hastings, who likened the archaic sound of the dial-up modem to the eventually outdated experience of buffering, said having no delays before a show starts “really changes your relationship with the service.”

When asked about cable companies' initial fears that Netflix would cause a massive cable cut, Hastings said cable servers like Liberty Global and Comcast have grown to see Netflix  as “one more source of entertainment like HBO” rather than as a threat to subscriber numbers.

The biggest change Netflix brought to the market, according to Hastings, was the idea of binge viewing, allowing people to try out new content at one low price per month.  

The co-founder of Netflix shied away from speculating how viewing would evolve in 20 years, “I’m not sure we’ll be entertaining you or entertaining AIs.”

“What’s amazing about technology is that it is hard to predict. If virtual reality takes off, we’ll adapt to that. We try to learn and adapt rather than commit to a product. The key is to stay creative and flexible. I can’t emphasize enough how it’s just beginning," Hastings said. 

The GSM Mobile World Congress, which runs Feb. 27-March 2, is the largest event for the wireless industry with more than 101,000 attendees expected this year, most of them top-level executives.