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Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, delivers a keynote address at the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2016. (STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS)
Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, delivers a keynote address at the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2016. (STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS)

Netflix CEO unveils huge global expansion Add to ...

Netflix Inc. chief executive officer Reed Hastings announced a huge global expansion of his video-on-demand service Wednesday, wrapping up a 50-minute keynote presentation with the news that Netflix had been switched on in 130 more countries.

“While you have been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in almost every country in the world, except China. And we hope to be there soon,” Mr. Hastings said on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “No more waiting ... no more watching on a schedule that’s not your own. You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network.”

Netflix was already in 60 countries, and its users watched 42.5 billion hours of Netflix in 2015, 12 billion hours in the final quarter of the year. That’s up from 2014’s total of 29 billion hours, and in 2013, the company recorded 19 billion hours of viewing.

In 2013, Netflix began its original production effort with House of Cards, but in 2016 that endeavour goes into overdrive with a host of new shows. The total budget for purchasing programming is forecast to hit $5-billion (U.S.), and the expectation is that the original-programming budget will be double that of rival premium programmer HBO.

Also on stage was chief content officer Ted Sarandos, ready to show off exclusive clips of Netflix originals The Crown and The Get Down, while firing shots at the “slice-and-dice” nature of international movie and television rights developed by the “linear TV” business of its rivals. Obtaining global streaming rights for Hollywood shows has been an ongoing thorn in Netflix’s side and has led to the creation of rival services, such as Shomi and Crave in the Canadian market, that leverage cable and broadcast programming deals to obtain streaming rights. Mr. Sarandos called that a consumer-unfriendly marketplace.

“The shows [audiences] want to watch are built on a business model they do not understand, and they do not care,” he said.

Netflix’s connection to the consumer electronics expo in Las Vegas comes from its commitment to be device and platform agnostic, Mr. Hastings said. He boasted that Netflix has 1,000 engineers working at improving all the technical elements of the service, from user interface to local load times and from device interoperability to recommendation engines. It’s a daunting level of investment in the work of delivering streaming over the Internet, and as of today, much of the world’s national television operators will have to contend with this new rival.

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