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Some 130 new countries added, Netflix chief tells CES crowd

In the time that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was onstage for the opening keynote of CES Wednesday, 130 new countries were added to the online on-demand streaming television service. Now, nearly 200 countries get it.

Now that’s growth.

Hastings showcased the entertainment side of CES, kicking off the annual four-day international consumer electronics show being staged in multiple venues across the city.

CES got off to a damp start with dozens of flight delays because of rain and fog at McCarran International Airport on Tuesday. Attendees didn’t seem to be bothered with new security measures that require bags to be searched before entering trade show floor and keynote addresses.

Hastings shared some of the history of the 17-year-old service he co-founded, which began with the delivery of DVDs by mail and was transformed into a streaming service that now offers original television programming and classic TV with the ability to offer entire seasons of a series at one time. The company is considered the originator of “binge watching” of television programming.

“We discovered that what our consumers wanted was the ability to watch what they wanted, when they wanted,” Hastings told the crowd of about 3,000 in a ballroom in The Venetian. “Now, we’ve put consumers in the driver’s seat.”

The company has benefited from several collaborations and partnerships with companies that discovered the value of entertainment on demand and placed dedicated Netflix connections on their devices.

The growth has been phenomenal.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, 12 billion hours of content were viewed by subscribers compared with 8.25 billion hours in the same quarter a year ago, Hastings said.

At the end of the third quarter of 2015, the company said it had 69.2 million subscribers worldwide, including 43 million in the United States.

And now, with Wednesday’s announcement, the company is poised to grow even more. Netflix programming is now available in 17 languages.

To generate additional interest, the company has stepped up its original content menu, building off the success of its first show, the political drama “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey.

Ted Sarandos, the head of content acquisition for Netflix, offered previews of upcoming original series that will debut this year. “The Crown,” a biographical story about the British royal family, created by Peter Morgan, and “The Get Down,” Baz Luhrmann’s series about the origins of hip-hop music, drew cheers from the CES crowd.

Sarandos then brought entertainers Chelsea Handler, Will Arnett, Krysten Ritter and Wayne Moura, all involved in Netflix productions, onstage for a quick panel talk about the transition of “linear television” to streamed video.

“Internet connectivity is getting better and better worldwide,” Hastings said at the close. “We’re now in nearly every country in the world except China. We’re in a position to tell the world’s stories to the world’s people.”

Hastings’ address was preceded with a short state-of-the-industry update from Consumer Technology Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

While Shapiro acknowledged the presence of nine top automobile manufacturers showing off their tech progress at CES, he also commented on how consumer choice has been enhanced with new technology.

Shapiro noted that drone technology, 3-D printing, robotics and wearable technology are changing the world at breakneck speed. He noted that the growth of the Internet has spread health-care benefits to remote corners of the world and that diagnostics and diagnoses can be conducted on patients by doctors continents away.

Noting his association’s advocacy positions in government, Shapiro also offered a shout-out to disruptive technology with remarks on how ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are available during the 2016 CES for the first time.

The mention received a roar of approval from the crowd.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find @RickVelotta on Twitter.

 

 

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