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Netflix CEO: Next from HBO? 'Binge' show releases like us too

Reed Hastings tells CNET that HBO will inevitably start releasing all episodes of a series at once -- just like Netflix does -- as the two prepare to go head-to-head when a streaming-only HBO service arrives next year.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings framed the entrance of HBO onto Netflix turf of streaming-video subscriptions as exciting rather than threatening. Getty Images

HBO is poised to launch its Netflix copycat next year, and the latter's chief executive predicts the imitation won't end there.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told CNET that a direct face-off in the online realm between his streaming-video service and the premium cable network will push both companies to get creative, including in the rival's programming-release patterns.

"Think about us doing the binge-viewing window, where you get all the episodes at once," he said in an interview Wednesday. "For a couple years they'll protest, 'Oh, that doesn't make sense,' of course. And then they'll do it."

That moment will be the marker for when Internet TV is more important than the linear stream of programming that binds traditional TV channels, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, HBO said it will launch a "standalone, over-the-top" offering next year that will let people watch programming purely online without subscribing to any pay-TV provider like a cable or satellite company. Its popular HBO Go app already provides the full breadth of the network's past and current original series as well as movies, but it's accessible only to those who pay for TV the traditional way.

The two companies have already gone head-to-head in Nordic countries, where Netflix expanded in 2012 and HBO first offered a subscription service untethered to a pay-TV package the same year. HBO has been aggressive there, but Netflix has remained ahead, Hastings said during a live-streamed discussion with analysts Wednesday about the company's third-quarter results.

"They've done pretty well, and we've done very well," he said. Netflix doesn't break out how many subscribers it has by country, nor has HBO provided figures on its HBO Nordic membership. Hastings downplayed the threat of HBO as new competition in the US, saying that in the Nordic countries, customers who were really interested in this kind of product tend to subscribe to both.

Hastings also had praise to heap on the competitor, calling HBO a "leader in their field." He framed the entrance of HBO into online-only streaming in the US as exciting rather than threatening, though the kudos were paired with flashes of competitive grit.

"We pioneered the space. They're playing rapid catch-up, which is what you do when you get behind," Hastings said in the interview.