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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings To Speak In San Antonio

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Reed Hastings

While it's hard to imagine kids today won't get to experience the joys of a video store, it isn't hard to understand why: the annoyance of every copy of the hit movie you came to rent being gone, the lack of quality alternatives, followed by the some-percent chance you will have to go back because the DVD was scratched.

 

Reed Hastings changed that with mail-order DVD service Netflix. Hastings, 58, founded Netflix in 1997. He will be in San Antonio on May 3 to talk about his experiences in technology and media and his philanthropic passion for reshaping public education as part of the Tech Bloc Rally.

“It’s a massive opportunity to bring in a top five disruptor in media and tech,” said David Heard, CEO of industry advocacy organization Tech Bloc, who partnered with KIPP Texas Public Schools. Hastings is on the board of directors for the KIPP Foundation.

The Tech Bloc Rally in the past has been a way for the organization to get out the vote on issues like rideshare or last year’s charter amendments. But it is also a way to bring out technology luminaries and leaders to inspire the local community— as it did with ATARI co-founder Nolan Bushnell and High Line creator Robert Hammond. It also allows the tech community to show those outsiders what San Antonio has to offer.

Netflix fundamentally changed the rules of the video rental industry when it launched streaming 12 years ago. It did it again when it rolled out original series, including “House of Cards.”

The company is now a content-generating behemoth, creating more than 150 shows, rolling out 80 movies last year — winning three Oscars with Roma.

The company has been amply rewarded for its big bets. It is now a Fortune 300 company with 139 million subscribers, and its has shown no signs of slowing down. It generated 30 percent more profits in 2018, and  the company’s stock price rose 75 percent.

 

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Paul Flahive | Texs Public Radio
The Netflix interface screen.

That’s a notable feat considering the growing offerings from Hulu, Amazon Prime, and online gaming platforms. Hastings was bullish in Netflix’s fourth quarter earnings call though, saying the entrance of Disney into online streaming would impact them “on the margins.”

"And so when you think of — just in U.S. terms for example — you know there is a billion hours of television content being consumed a day. We're winning ten percent of it." Hastings said.

Not content to be an iconoclast of two industries, Hastings has applied considerable monies towards revamping public education. The pro-charter school evangelist served on the California Board of Education for four yeras, has advocated for the end to elected school boards, and started lobbying groups like EdVoice and venture capital funds for education entreprenuers.

He isn't new to the conversation either. He has been credited with funding the 1998 campaign that allowed more charter schools in California. He also helped fund the popular web-video-based Khan Academy.

About half the evening will be devoted to conversations about his work in education, according to organizers. Former Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston will moderate the converstation.

Tickets are free to hear Hastings speak at the Empire theater, but there is no live stream —  a rare time Netflix content is only available in the theater.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive.