NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) CEO Reed Hastings doesn't come out looking too good, particularly in the early stages of Gina Keating's excellent Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs.
After reading Keating's account, I better appreciate Hastings, the CEO and the man. In fact, for as great of a job as Keating did, Hastings got an equally-as-raw deal.
Keating reveals a side of Hastings many of us knew existed, but, without firsthand contact, could not confirm. Keating describes him as "icy," which, by most accounts, probably fits.
Hastings is not socially awkward. He's just a guy who doesn't care much about personal relationships, at least when it comes to business. It's all about the image. All about the spin. And all about winning. That's a dangerous cocktail.Keating's portrayal of Hastings vindicates something I have come to believe. This CEO needs a strong COO. Just like Mark Zuckerberg has with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook (FB - Get Report). Outside of the people person sphere, Hastings is a brilliant guy. This brilliance leads him to want to control many aspects of the Netflix operation. And, ultimately, he's just not very good at much of it, as he proved several times last year. Hastings presides over, at best, a rocky marriage with Netflix users. While I wouldn't blast Hastings nearly as hard as I did Lance Armstrong, you can logically draw parallels between the marketing and public relations machines both men live and die by. Like Armstrong, Netflix is all about official statements, no comments and strategic, even if horribly ill-advised, Tweets and blog posts. Armstrong crafts his image down to the 140th character. Netflix is only slightly different. For goodness sake, a majority of questions on the company's quarterly conference call are pre-selected and read to the CEO and CFO by the head of investor relations. In the long run, highly-controlled image creation backfires. Mistakes, ego and seemingly innocuous "white lies" catch up with you. Case in point after a key qualifier. Seems to me that exiled Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph informed a significant portion of Keating's book. Keep that in mind as I relay this story. Randolph might have an ax to grind; however, what I believe to be Randolph's input appears legit.
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