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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: We’ll Be Shipping DVDs Until 2030

peter-reed

The digital video revolution may be hastening the DVD toward its end, but there’s quite a bit of life left in the old format yet. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said as much today when he remarked that the company’s DVD-by-mail business will likely continue until 2030. During a wide-ranging on-stage interview with All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka, Hastings discussed the deal Netflix cut with Warner Bros. earlier this week that will delay rentals of the studio’s films until 28 days after their DVD release and Comcast’s proposal to acquire a controlling stake in NBC Universal, a move that could impact Netflix’s Watch Instantly streaming service.

“When we first started years ago, we were literally going down to Best Buy and buying a bunch of DVDs and renting them,” Hastings said, reflecting on the Warner Bros. deal. He noted that Netflix (NFLX) is getting a better deal on DVD prices and that customers are going to see more streaming content as a result of its pact with the studio.

Video clip: Highlights from Reed Hasting’s interview

The future of the DVD was up for discussion as Netflix transitions into more on-demand, streaming content. “Pretty soon, we’re going to be a streaming business that rents some DVDs,” said Hastings.

He gave the DVD another 20 years though, projecting it will take that long for Netflix to get out of the disc-shipping business all together.

Hastings eschewed suggestions that Netflix might be looking to add a premium channel or sports to its services, but would instead focus on expanding the number of video game consoles on which you can currently steam Netflix content. Hastings said that streaming was the rocket Netflix wanted to ride.

Reed Hastings of Netflix

Peter closed out the interview by asking Hastings about plans that go bump in the night, specifically wondering what Hulu or Comcast (CMCSA) might put together.

Hastings said, “Any time a competitor doubles in size, that’s capitalism, but not good for us. We’re movie-centric, and commercial-free. We license a lot of content. As we get more subscribers, we can write bigger checks to license more content.”

Subscribers = good, more subscribers = better.

What was better going to look like? Hastings laid it out in a closing remark.

“We’re about three things right now: Expanding the platform, expanding the content and expanding the user interface, making it better and better.”

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What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard.

— Mark Pagel, fellow of the Royal Society and professor of evolutionary biology, in conversation with Edge.org