The media giant surprised investors in August when it announced that it would eventually end its partnership with Netflix in favor of building its own Disney-branded streaming service. Disney's direct-to-consumer platform is expected to launch in 2019; until then, Disney content will still be accessible on Netflix.
During Netflix's third-quarter earnings call, Hastings said the loss of Disney content would have little impact on the company, particularly as it continues to benefit from international expansion. Ted Sarandos, Netflix's content chief, added that when companies like Disney end their partnerships, it isn't an "erratic shift" because many of the contracts are long-term deals that last for several TV show seasons.
"Disney is a great brand with great content, but internationally we only have it in the Netherlands, Australia and Canada," Hastings said. "Although it's got an enormously significant brand, in terms of its significance relative to growth, you can see that we've done very well in international without it."
Netflix added 5.3 million new subscribers worldwide in the fiscal third quarter. Of that number, it added 4.45 million international subscribers and 850,000 in the U.S.
As Disney and other media partners introduce their own streaming services, it has ramped up the pressure for Netflix to create blowout original series like "Stranger Things" and "Narcos." Netflix has prepped for the explosion of streaming services by churning out more and more original content and licensing deals.
Netflix said it would bump up its original content budget to be between $7 billion and $8 billion in 2018, up from $6 billion in 2017. The company plans to release about 80 original films in the coming year; it released eight original movies in the third quarter alone. Netflix has also attracted big name content creators away from major networks, including Shonda Rhimes, ending a 15-year relationship with ABC Studios.
The production deal with Rhimes had to do with "a lot more than just her attractiveness and outbidding ABC," Hastings said.
Sarandos contended that the introduction of competing services is good for Netflix and good for consumers.
"We just have to focus on creating content that our members can't live without and get excited about every month," he added. "And whether or not our partners decide to produce for us or compete with us, that's really the choice they have to make based on their business."
Netflix's ballooning content budget hasn't come without costs to consumers, however. Earlier this month, the company announced that some subscription prices would increase, affecting the upper tier high-definition plans. Some of the revenue is expected to go to the company's content budget. That said, CFO David Wells noted there's no correlation between the company's "intent to grow" content spending and the price increases.
At the same time, content distributors are being pushed into a more competitive bidding environment to secure the top films and TV shows. Again, Netflix said not much has changed.
"Those big unicorn shows, the price of any one of them might go up in a more competitive market, but general content costs are quite predictable," Sarandos said.
Shares of Netflix were up 1.2% to $205.30 in after-hours trading on Monday. The stock is up more than 60% so far this year.
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