Netflix's Reed Hastings Weighs In on Theaters, Variable Playback and Saudi Arabia

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

“We do care about creators and the creative intentions, but we also care about consumers,” said the CEO in defending the company's experiment letting users watch videos at 1.5X speed.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who was interviewed Wednesday by Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times Dealbook Conference, weighed in on his company’s relationship with theaters and the decision to pull an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia, among other topics.

In January, Netflix pulled an episode of Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia that was critical of the country’s crown prince.

"We’re not in the 'truth to power' business, we’re in the entertainment business," said the exec in defense of the decision.

"We can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment and influencing a global conversation conversation about how people live than trying to be another news channel," Hastings added. "If they can came to us and said you can't have gay content, we wouldn't do that. We would not comply with that."

The CEO also addressed the recent concern from film and TV creators over Netflix’s experiment allowing users to watch videos at 1.5X speed.

Hastings said the company is trying to "balance the constituencies" of users and creators.

"We do care about creators and the creative intentions, but we also care about consumers," he said, noting that VCRs and DVRs have had that capability and that there was similar outrage when Netflix allowed users to stream movies on their phones.

Hastings was also bullish on the future of theatrical films.

"The internet was bad for bookstores, it was tough on newspapers, bad for video stores, but it was great for restaurants," he said, adding that theaters are "a going-out experience."

Added Hastings, "If theaters want to carry Netflix films once they are on Netflix, because people want the group experience, that’s great."