Forget the financial health of the two businesses. Forget who really has shows that are verifiable hits. Forget that filmmakers go to HBO first, then Netflix if rejected. Forget that Hastings would give his pinkie finger to license HBO programming. Forget that, no matter what Netflix does, HBO continues to grow and expand on practically every metric imaginable, from subscribers to ratings.
But Hastings set up this Netflix/HBO comparison. And he rides it hard, particularly as the media uncritically focuses on subscriber numbers.
If Hastings released numbers for, say, House of Cards, he would undoubtedly have this comparison blow up in his face.
We have no idea how many people watched House of Cards. Based on online traffic, one guess claims that between 1.5 million and 2.7 million people streamed at least one episode the day after its release.Even as a critic of the company, I could get with the idea that -- splitting the middle -- 2.1 million viewers for your first original is pretty good. However, when you have ranted like Hastings has, you set yourself up for a hard fall even if you report a number that's formidable. That's because 2.1 million represents just 5.5% of Netflix's total global subscriber base. But, beyond that, Hastings would have to defend against increased and less favorable comparisons to HBO. Four million subscribers watched the critically-acclaimed VEEP across platforms. Five million watched Girls. Ten million saw True Blood. Fourteen million or so for Game of Thrones. In that scenario, even the smooth-talking Hastings would have no choice but to concede to HBO. He couldn't get away with a simple we have lot of respect for them and we hope we can be as big as them one day. He would have to cease all comparisons or lose any credibility he has left. If that 2.1 million estimate is in the ballpark, House of Cards drew only about half the audience of VEEP, an HBO original the network doesn't even run around calling a hit. And it's not even close to unquestionable smashes such as True Blood and Game of Thrones. Hastings' use of HBO as the foil for his Netflix propaganda will blow up in his face in due time. If he released viewing data, it would just happen a heck of a lot sooner. That would merely mean less time for Netflix executives to load up on $10 million beachfront property and hyper-lucrative employee stock options. Follow @rocco_thestreet --Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
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