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Does Netflix Plan to Ever Offer Live TV?

Posted by Jamie on November 26, 2018

Netflix may seem to be all things to all people but there are some things it won’t do. One of those things is offer live TV services. But why? Considering it is making more money than it could possibly spend on new content and counts its subscribers by the millions, why won’t Netflix ever offer live TV?

Apparently, Netflix is now available in over 150 countries across the world. Only places like China, North Korea and Syria don’t have access to Netflix unless they use a VPN. So with so much reach and so many users, why would the company not branch out into as many services as possible?

When Netflix began back in 2007, it was the first and only streaming service of its kind. It did get off to a slow start but then suddenly seemed to skyrocket into popularity. With that popularity came money, lots of money and then came the competition. Amazon, Hulu, HBO and others all wanted a piece of the action and joined the streaming space.

Netflix changed the way we consume media much like iTunes changed the way we listen to and buy music. Live TV is going the same way with more people cutting the cord every day. Which does beg the question as to why Netflix doesn’t want to get into live TV.

Netflix and live TV

To understand why Netflix doesn’t plan to do live TV, we have to go back to an interview by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. He talked to the media back in July and said a lot of interesting stuff. One subject he covered was live TV and whether Netflix was going to follow Amazon and Hulu into it.

He said; “To follow a competitor, never, never, never. We have so much we want to do in our area, so we’re not trying to copy others, whether that’s linear cable, there’s lots of things we don’t do. We don’t do live news, we don’t do live sports. But what we do do, we try to do really well.”

There were two seemingly apparent reasons he didn’t want to take Netflix into live TV. The dislike for ad breaks and the desire to not broaden and therefore dilute the brand.

Ad breaks and live TV

One of the things most of us love about Netflix is the lack of ad breaks. The US has it worse than most other countries, with more minutes per hour of commercials than anywhere else. The rise of DVR players may save us from the worst of that but they are still everywhere.

Fire up Netflix and you can watch as much TV as you like without a single ad break. No crash edits to for commercials, no having to wait for a cliffhanger until the ad break finishes and no shouting at the TV telling it to hurry up and get back to the show. Sure, we subscribe to Netflix because of the content but we also love the fact we don’t have to put up with commercials.

Add live TV into the mix and that goes away. With live TV comes commercial rights, licensing and ad breaks. If you show a networks’ live feed, you will also have to show their commercials or some version thereof. If the network goes dark for five minutes for commercials, Netflix either has to show the ads or replace them with something else. That’s either a lot of work or a lot of annoyance for viewers.

Stick to what you know

The other thing I took away from that interview with Reed Hastings was his desire to stick to what Netflix is good at. While he mentioned no names, he did mention that some services are spreading themselves very wide and offering a very diverse set of features.

Hastings said content was at the core of what Netflix was offering. He said; “Our content is our crown jewel,” he said, “and it’s up to us to take that money and turn it into great content for users’ viewing benefit.”

Will Netflix ever offer live TV?

While the intent is to stick to content right now and not offer live TV, technology is one of those industries where you never say never. It’s a fast moving industry and what is right for the business now may not be right for the business later. Sure, Netflix is still growing and developing content of increasing quality but that’s not to say it will always be this way.

The rise of content streaming will see the end of the traditional cable model at some point. Whether driven by sports, news or general content, it will all be streamed soon. Market forces may convince Netflix to offer live TV but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

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