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TheStreet Open House

Hastings' Netflix-HBO Comparisons Will Blow Up in His Face

Stocks in this article: NFLXTWX

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- While it's unfortunate the media doesn't push Netflix (NFLX) to report how many people actually watch its original programming, it's no surprise.

Reed Hastings has done a wonderful job controlling the conversation that surrounds his company.

How else could he get media outlets to blindly assume Netflix originals are hits without verifiable proof? Or manage to convince a financial news network and Wall Street brokerage to allow a reporter and analyst to moderate the company's conference call? Or walk away unchallenged when he says I don't pay attention to churn so you shouldn't either?

His ability to manipulate popular conversation on Netflix prompted me to shoot fish in a barrel and recommend NFLX stock since around $60 (it's up around $260 now), while remaining bearish on his company because of, in part, a doomed-to-fail original programming strategy.

There's no logic behind Hastings not releasing viewing data for Netflix originals. We've been over this several times. He claims it's because Netflix, unlike traditional television, doesn't care what happens in the initial 24-hour window. At the same time, however, Hastings loves to discuss anticipation and excitement that accompanies the release of each full season. Still, he won't give us numbers after a week, after 30 days and, unless he changes his mind, after six months or a year.

Nonsensical. And a travesty that the media, particularly on Wall Street and in television, continue to give him a free pass.

But here's my take on why Hastings will not release ratings figures or anything resembling them, independently or through a third party.

Hastings set up this absurd comparison between Netflix and Time Warner's (TWX) HBO. Thanks to a media that, by and large, stopped practicing journalism years ago, most people take the Netflix/HBO association seriously. As if 30 million subscribers requires no context; they're the same at Netflix as they are at HBO.

*(For the record, HBO has roughly 30 million U.S. subscribers and approximately 114 million worldwide. Netflix has about 30 million in the U.S. and 38 million globally).

Forget that Netflix is an $8 monthly credit card charge many of us forget about; whereas you're more likely to scrutinize the cash you pay for HBO each month, given that it's around twice as much and part of what could be a $50 to more than $100 expenditure.

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