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Netflix CEO Won't Buy What Icahn Is Selling


It's the beginning of the end.

You could easily detect the apprehension and wariness in the response to Icahn's move from a Netflix spokesman: "We have many shareholders, now including Mr. Icahn, and we're always open to their perspective on how to build on our success."

Translation: We have zero interest in anything Icahn has to say.

Netflix is Hastings' baby. It's a groundbreaking, digital media phenomenon that he built from scratch into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with over 30 million subscribers, a wildly popular brand and a gigantic leadership position at the forefront of a consumer technology revolution in how people enjoy video entertainment--one of the largest, most prestigious and coveted businesses on the planet.

Do you really think Hastings wants to sell his baby to Verizon (VZ)?

Icahn knows perfectly well that Hastings isn't going to like being pressured to sell Netflix. He also knows that many deep-pocketed companies are salivating to own Netflix, or at least watch from afar while it gets neutered by a new set of corporate overlords.

Just look at Netflix's nearest direct competitor, Hulu, which is owned by media giants News Corp (NWSA), Walt Disney (DIS) and Comcast (CMCSA). It has a mere two million paid subscribers, and its CEO Jason Kilar is constantly having his wings clipped by his old media parents as they strive to look cool by embracing technology while also keeping the online video genie in the bottle.

Netflix has been a new source of business for many media companies, but those benefits are far outweighed by the fact that it has also been a royal pain in the industry's ass.

The more time consumers spend watching good shows and movies on Netflix for $8 a month, the more they resent the fact that they're also paying over $50 a month for traditional pay-TV service, which entails enduring hours of advertising (or fast-forwarding advertising) and navigating the maze of worthless channels, arbitrary schedules and chitty-chitty-bang-bang technological interfaces and hardware.

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