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What Apple, Netflix and HBO Will Do in 2014


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- According to my research, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers recorded a .348 batting average in 2013. Cabrera made $21 million in 2013.

That makes me underpaid.

Looking back on my 2013 predictions (the serious ones), you can reasonably conclude that I hit .400. Strange. Where were you when we started this game? But I don't make anything near $21 million a year. In fact, the members of Matchbox 20 probably earn more than I do.

Consider my December 10, 2012, article, CEOs Who Will Get Fired in 2013.

I put Zynga's (ZNGA) Mark Pincus, Netflix's (NFLX) Reed Hastings, Best Buy's (BBY) Hubert Joly, Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) Meg Whitman and Microsoft's (MSFT) Steve Ballmer on the list.

I grouped Pincus and Hastings together for a reason.

I thought Zynga and Netflix would do well to follow a Pandora (P)-like strategy where the original brains behind the operation doesn't serve as CEO. Because, sometimes, these guys just aren't cut out to lead in that role.

Ironically, of the three men, Pandora's Tim Westergren, who serves as co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, would be the best CEO. But Pandora's still smart to have never really considered that as far as I know.

Looking back, I nailed the Pincus thing. In fact, I have an inkling that my urging (I pushed for the move all year) might have, even if mildly, influenced the process.

On Hastings -- it's still the right move, but he'll never let it happen. Within the Netflix context (I don't know the man personally), Hastings doesn't have a humble bone in his body. He would never step down. And, given NFLX's run this year, there's zero buzz that he should. Quite the opposite.

But stock runs don't always reflect the health of the underlying company. So, here's a bonus prediction before we even get to what Apple (AAPL) will do in 2014:

  • When NFLX implodes in 2014 on slowing subscriber growth, rising costs and the attendant realization that its original programming isn't all that, Reed will make Chief Content Officer Ted "Don't knock the chip off my shoulder" Sarandos the fall guy, shifting strategy to whatever he can cook up in his I believe my own hype brain.

How about this for a bonus-bonus prediction?

  • Mark my words. Time Warner's (TWX) Home Box Office has some incredible programming lined up -- some announced, some my sources tell me I can't talk about -- that will blow up much of the Netflix love Hastings managed to manufacture over the last couple of years. One move in particular -- which involves a major deal a major director will do with HBO -- will reinforce HBO's dominance as it helps bring Netflix back down to Earth.

And here's another bonus before Apple!

  • Netflix will cut a deal with one or more small-size cable companies to become part of their set-top boxes. I would still be shocked if any of the majors get involved in such arrangements, though Netflix could -- and probably should -- turn up on something like Comcast's (CMCSA) XFINITY app.

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