Netflix wants to bring you everything you want to see -- but it's going to cost them a lot of money.
CEO Reed Hastings, speaking with reporter Kara Swisher at All Things Digital's D9 conference, said that the company is working hard to get more and more content on its site, but that that content is limited by the amount of money it can pay studios.
"We look at what we think our subscribers will want," Hastings said. "What's the next best content we don't have that we want?"
Netflix has over 24 million subscribers and is trying to grow its base so that it can spend more money on purchasing content. But, Hastings admitted, keeping up with new material that customers want is "very expensive," and the site can't maintain an eight-dollar-per-month streaming model while offering access to new shows and movies.
For example, Netlix's current contract with Starz expires in 2012, and though Hastings would not confirm the amount that Netflix will have to pay to renew the deal, he said that a figure of $200 to $300 million would not be "shocking."
As he has in the past, Hastings emphasized that Netflix sees itself as a complement to new content providers rather than a direct competitor. Instead of providing premium, instant access to content that pay-per-view and on-demand services offer, Netflix focuses on prior seasons of television shows and movies that have already hit DVD. Netflix's rationale is that offering the previous season of a hit show will drive up consumer desire to see the newest season on TV.
While Hastings said he'd like to have new seasons of HBO and Showtime shows, he has not yet managed a deal that would work. HBO has no content at all on Netflix, opting to offer its own HBO Go service instead. But, when HBO won't cooperate, Netflix is forced to make deals for original programming, as with the upcoming David Fincher series House of Cards.
"If we can't spend the money with HBO and Showtime, we've got to do things like that," he said. "Our preference is to do that with HBO and Showtime. The check's not big enough yet."
In the meantime, Netflix has set its sights globally, with expansion to Canada, and later this year, to an as-of-yet unnamed country. Hastings noted that Asia, in particular, will prove important, especially Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and India. Hastings also said that operating a site like Netflix in China would present serious challenges.