Net neutrality may have lost Netflix as an ally

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings isn’t going to fight the rollback of the rules governing an open internet and believes change is coming no matter what.

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Erin Carson
2 min read
Watch this: Has Netflix gone soft on net neutrality?

Netflix is ready to wave the white flag when it comes to the war over net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission and President Donald Trump want to tear down the rules governing an open internet that were put in place under the previous administration. While Netflix has been a vocal proponent of the rules in the past, CEO Reed Hastings said it isn't his company's fight anymore.

"We're big enough to get the deals we want," he said during Recode's Code Conference on Wednesday.

Netflix once stood alongside internet giants like Google, consumer advocates and Democrats in pushing for harder rules that ensured internet providers treated traffic equally. Republicans, pro-business advocates and companies like Comcast and Verizon argue the rules are too onerous and stifle innovation and investment.

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Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings says net neutrality isn't Netflix's "primary battle" anymore.

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One concern over prioritizing traffic was the idea that smaller players wouldn't be able to compete against larger companies who could afford priority access. That's no longer the case with Netflix, which is one of the largest drivers of video traffic on the internet.

It's an issue that would have been more important to "the Netflix of 10 years ago," he said.

Netflix, which was founded in 1997, now has about 93 million subscribers across 190 countries, watching about 1 billion hours of video a week. Whereas Netflix once focused on mailing DVDs to subscribers, the company's branched out over the years, getting into streaming and producing original content through Netflix Originals. The price tag for creating new content in 2017 is about $6 billion, according to the company's first quarter earnings report.

Hastings said Netflix is still supportive of other companies fighting against the net neutrality rollback— and that in a sense, it's their turn to do so.

Plus, all that battling might be for naught.

"I think Trump's FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what happens," Hastings said. He also expressed some optimism that perhaps internet providers will continue to play fair, even if there are no longer regulations in place. 

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