Net­flix CEO says ‘se­ri­ous AI’ is hard to pre­dict

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - @ed­baig USA TO­DAY Ed­ward C. Baig

Twenty to 50 years from now, when “you’re start­ing to get into some se­ri­ous AI,” Reed Hast­ings isn’t sure whether Net­flix is go­ing to be en­ter­tain­ing you or en­ter­tain­ing the ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent bots.

The Net­flix founder and CEO opined on the fu­ture dur­ing an in­ter­view on stage at Mo­bile World Congress here.

“What’s amaz­ing about tech­nol­ogy is it’s re­ally hard to pre­dict,” he says. “What we do is try to learn and adapt rather than try to com­mit to one par­tic­u­lar view of what’s go­ing to hap­pen. And if vir­tual re­al­ity takes off ,we’ll adapt to that. If it be­comes con­tact lenses that have amaz­ing pow­ers, we’ll adapt to that.”

Hast­ing ’s ap­pear­ance at the mo­bile in­dus­try’s sig­na­ture trade shindig was largely fo­cused on Net­flix’s ex­pe­ri­ences glob­ally. Last Jan­uary, Net­flix ex­panded to 130 coun­tries and is now just about ev­ery­where, with one big ex­cep­tion — China. About half of Net­flix’s nearly 100 mil­lion stream­ing mem­bers are in­ter­na­tional.

The com­pany has been on a roll lately. In Jan­uary, Net­flix eas­ily beat Wall Street earn­ings fore­casts, boosted by in­ter­na­tional sub­scribers. The stock is trad­ing at $143.41, not far off its 52-week high.

Hast­ings dis­cussed the ap­peal be­hind the com­pany’s in­ter­na­tional push. “If you’re a film­maker in Spain or Italy you’re ex­cited about Net­flix be­cause it can give global reach for your film.”

Hast­ings said he has seen strong mo­bile us­age through­out Africa, the Mid­dle East and Asia.

Hast­ings says Net­flix is in­vest­ing heav­ily around the world on network servers and im­prov­ing the con­nec­tion.

“Five or 10 years from now the qual­ity of Net­flix on all of your de­vices will be just in­cred­i­ble, and we don’t know ex­actly what that is, he said. “But we know that the In­ter­net is al­low­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences to get cre­ated.”

Net­flix spent the first cou­ple of years de­liv­er­ing mostly Hol­ly­wood con­tent. Now the com­pany is de­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships with pro­duc­ers in Tur­key, Korea, Ja­pan and else­where.

We want to “give global pro­duc­ers a global au­di­ence to en­ter­tain,” Hast­ings said.

Hast­ings’ com­pany con­tin­ues to ex­pand glob­ally at rapid clip and is now in 130 coun­tries


Reed Hast­ings, founder and CEO of Net­flix, smiles dur­ing a key­note at the Mo­bile World Congress in Barcelona.

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