Reed Hastings: We learn local tastes fast, but our target is the global content

Reed Hastings: We learn local tastes fast, but our target is the global content
Hastings co-founded Netflix with partner Marc Randolph in 1997 as a movie rental system, which now operates in nearly 200 countries. 
Last week Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, held a press meeting in İstanbul for the Netflix launch in Turkey. After the revelation of the press meeting, it was announced that 7 people would have the opportunity to interview Hastings. became one of those 7 (well, actually 6 because one of the interviewers called in sick). Here are some of the highlights of our interview.

-Firstly, welcome to Turkey!
RH: Thank you. It’s good to be here, I love İstanbul.

-I want to start with your content acquisition in Turkey. You do that in such an intriguing way. It’s so interesting that a foreigner would buy the rights to shows like Behzat Ç and Leyla ile Mecnun. Yet you also buy already-finished series. I understand that you are collecting content but who’s the advisor behind this type of acquisition?
RH: Netflix operates in 190 countries now so we have a lot of audience experience. We know well what kind of series and programs they want to watch. For this particular reason, we do research about a specific country and find out what they watch and what they liked watching in the past. We examine illegal (pirate) networks as well. Because this tendency shows you the demand that hasn’t been met yet, it is educational. This way we get to learn what the audience watches and thus try to buy more of that type of content.
We also try to include great diversity on Netflix. We work to include content that is globally appealing. Everywhere we go, we start with content acquisition, making better choices every year.

-As far as we know from foreign news, you carried out a small workshop for local producers in the Middle East. Do you have any plans to do that in Turkey?
RH: Yes, we did something like that but it wasn’t exactly a workshop. It was more like a meeting with the local producers within the parameters of Dubai Film Festival. We met them and bought content. The intention was to maintain good communication with the local producers. For the moment, we don’t have any similar.

-Turkey is a highly confused country when it comes to television content. We sell abroad but what we sell abroad sometimes doesn’t have any audience within the country; and those who work locally don’t get sold abroad. During the press meeting, you marked 2017 for some potential collaborations. What are your criteria in this?
RH: The kinds of programs we search are both Turkish as well as global. Narcos is a very good example to this. It was filmed in Bogota, Colombia. It is a local story but it was a global hit. This is the exact kind of story we look for.

-Even though they aren’t linked to a certain production company, there are many professional and semi-professional people with bright ideas here. How will they reach out to Netflix? Like, if my aunt calls me and says they have a good idea for a series, how do they talk to Netflix? What should they do?
RH: If the project is already ‘produced’, then putting it on YouTube or Vimeo is one of the best methods. That’s how we notice. If, however, we are talking about a screenplay or an idea of a production, then they definitely need to be represented by an agency. There are examples to this, people who weren’t known at all came to us with their stories. It was wonderful and we loved it. The outcome was the famous Stranger Things. It will naturally be a little more difficult for amateurs and students to reach out to us.

-You recently cancelled Bloodline. This isn’t something we see a lot with Netflix. Do you have any reason besides the ratings?
RH: We aired Bloodline two seasons. Then we announced another season but every story ends someday. Bloodline’s story finished so that’s why it’s ending.

-Do you give revisions to projects, like a typical TV network does?
RH: We only try to help when it’s necessary. (laughs) We are generally more at ease with taking risks because we operate via internet.

-Speaking of risks, during the promo we just watched during the presentation, it said “This is Netflix. You can say anything you want here.” I still want to ask: Does Netflix have red lines?
RH: No, there are none. We always aim to do what we like and what we think is right. Consequently, we have no red lines.

-Netflix recently started buying festival movies. You buy movies that aren’t released yet. Does this mean you’ll soon be running for the Oscars too?
RH: Sometimes we do that (laughs). You might know we just won 9 Emmy awards last week.

-Congrats on that!
RH: Well, not as much as HBO but still close.

- (At this point, I say ‘I Love Netflix!’ in English and the interpreter translates that to Turkish, which cracks us up once again.) Two big Turkish networks have launched their Netflix-like platforms. One is active and the other one will soon be. How do you feel about competition, especially about local content?
RH: There are numerous local services in every country. They obviously know the choices and likings of the local audiences better than we do. But we learn these local tastes and pleasure very quickly, what we really do is discover globally appealing content and stories.

-I want to talk about the past just a little. About Kevin Spacey and House of Cards. You launched with a remake and it was a huge success. I am curious about what was going on before all that. Were there many projects and you ended up choosing HoC or was it the only available option?
RH: House of Cards was a Kevin Spacey project and Kevin wanted only HBO and Netflix to bid for its rights. Think of it like a tender. Whoever paid more would get to keep the project.

-So you’re saying you gave the best bid and got it.
RH: Both companies sort of ‘fought’ for the project but we won (laughs)

-My last question: We are a website that does content both on local and foreign television. How does Netflix help us with the promotion of their original content? Meetings, press tours, interviews... Will you be offering any of these opportunities?
RH: Most definitely. We also plan to include Turkish press in our events. We want to properly accommodate you within the international media.