Netflix in Talks to Offer Online Video Service Via Comcast, Other U.S. Pay TV Firms (Report)

DOWN: Reed Hastings

Netflix posts a $5 million quarterly loss -- its first since 2005 -- even as the company's subscriber base grows to 26 million and CEO Hastings' pay jumps 68 percent to $9.3 million for 2011.

The company has struck agreements with U.K. cable giant Virgin Media and a Swedish firm in a sign that some in the industry see it as a partner rather than a competitor.

Netflix is in talks with such U.S. pay TV companies as Comcast to make its popular online video service available via their set-top boxes, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The report also mentioned that smaller cable firm Suddenlink Communications is among the firms that are considering offering Netflix content via an app.

The news of the discussions come after two recent similar agreements with cable operators in Europe. Britain's Virgin Media and Sweden's Com Hem struck the deals in the hope of retaining subscribers by offering Netflix content. Analysts have also argued that Netflix subscribers are more likely to pay for faster broadband services provided by cable firms.

In the U.S., Netflix has been mentioned as a possible reason for consumers to cut the cable cord. The talks with pay TV companies there are in early stages, meaning that no agreements are near or guaranteed, according to the Journal.

One development has helped the talks. Netflix has this year managed to change its content deals with Hollywood players that previously made deals with U.S. pay TV distributors difficult, the Journal said.

Some pay TV firms also see Netflix as possible added leverage in retransmission consent and carriage fee disputes. During possible future network blackouts that deprive consumers in an operator's territory of popular shows, companies could highlight that Netflix provides programming alternatives.

But one point of contention in talks with U.S. pay TV firms is that Netflix wants them to use its own technology for delivering streaming video to ensure the best quality, the Journal reported. Cable companies believe though that their own broadband networks can handle all Netflix traffic.

Twitter: @georgszalai