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TheStreet Open House

Netflix: The Biggest Empty Promise Since Enron?

Stocks in this article: NFLXDISAMZNTWXGOOG

Because, like Hastings, old media leaders see the future, however -- and this is the key part -- unlike Netflix, they control it. In fact, they have almost sole control over the future of "television." The old guard represents the future of video entertainment consumption as much as it does the past. Also, unlike Netflix, the old guard enjoys the luxury of overseeing a slow evolution.

Given the affiliate fees they collect and multi-million dollar gravy train checks for mostly stale and some strategic content they cash from Netflix, Amazon.com (AMZN) and others, there's no need to rush. Why bust a model where you sell scraps to glorified third-party bootleggers such as Netflix while you control the most coveted programming (sports, popular originals, top cable series, etc.)?

I know this. The old guard media knows this. Deep down, Reed Hastings even knows this.


That explains his final Hail Mary pass from Netflix: its simultaneously impressive and lame original programming push.

Time Warner (TWX) executives and employees, particularly the ones at HBO, must chuckle as Hastings dribbles out originals such as "Hemlock Grove" and "House of Cards." They represent a hope and a prayer of survival in a world where premium outlets such as HBO dominate original programming with hit after hit, year after year.

If the originals don't work beyond anybody's expectations (and, possibly, even if they do), Netflix is toast.

Disney must be seeing success with its first big TV Everywhere app -- the one that streams ESPN programming -- because it's about to go big by spreading ABC content across platforms alongside an aggressive advertising push. That's the future. One that doesn't involve Netflix. Because there's no reason it should or possibly can.

The old guard media doesn't have to buy Netflix. They already effectively own and control it. They allow Netflix to exist on their terms. As those terms evolve to include the old guard streaming more of the content it also owns and controls, it's game over not only for Netflix, but other disparate streamers. Without a novel approach, you're gone.

Because of its uniqueness, versatility and strong cash, revenue and profit position, Google (GOOG) might have the best chance at survival in partnership with and in competition against the old guard media.

For attendant thoughts on the beginning of YouTube's subscription push, as it relates to Netflix and the bigger picture, see my appearance from last week with Jake Tapper on CNN:

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.
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