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The Deal: Netflix CEO's Bet on Content Depends on Who Controls It

What actually happens to cable TV's bundled packages will likely fall between the smooth transition envisioned by Hastings and the doomsday scenario predicted by DCA. It's also possible that, for a while longer at least, a certain video streamer wants to let certain sleeping giants lie. Hastings assumes more authority, however, when addressing barriers to entry that Netflix has already managed to erect. Although he doesn't call them barriers, that's pretty much the thrust of such declarations:

"We spend over $450M per year on global marketing to attract people to try Netflix, and to reinforce with our members why Netflix is worthy."

"We are currently spending about $350M per year on a wide range of efforts to improve our service and app, and we are constantly getting better." "We're now investing over $2B per year in content licensing and the creation of original shows."

While the quantity of these investments is enough to stop most would-be intruders in their tracks, Hastings also presents Netflix as a quality investor.

"We've realized that the 20th documentary about the financial crisis will mostly just take away viewing from the other 19 such docs, and instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category," he writes of insights gained over Netflix's 16 years. "As such, we are actively curating our service rather than carrying as many titles as we can."

These insights are also being applied to original programming, an area where Hastings admits there's more judgment involved. But he's confident all the same that Netflix's data on members' viewing habits and experience in licensing content give this original-content newcomer an edge over more traditional producers. Hence his opinion, "We think we can do as good or better [a] job than our linear TV peers in choosing projects and setting budgets."

DCA, for its part, appreciates Netflix's accomplishments but believes the digital transition has triggered a virtual land rush for content providers -- new and old alike. Its white paper notes that YouTube LLC has invested $350 million to create content in a campaign that will continue to fund the top 40% of programs so created. It also cites Google Inc. (GOOG)'s giving Machinima Inc., the No. 1 entertainment destination on YouTube, $35 million in a recent investment round, as well as Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA - Get Report)'s year-old acquisition of Revision3, another online television network with more than 27 million monthly unique users, for an estimated $30 million.
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