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“We’re not in the truth to power business, we’re in the entertainment business.”
That’s Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix Inc., defending a decision earlier this year to pull an episode of comedian Hasan Minaj’s “Patriot Act,” which was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, from airing in Saudi Arabia.
“We can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment and influencing a global conversation about how people live than trying to be another news channel,” Hastings said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times’ Dealbook Conference.
Hastings added a caveat on how far he would go: “If they can came to us and said you can’t have gay content, we wouldn’t do that. We would not comply with that.”
Netflix drew flak for pulling the episode of “Patriot Act,” a satirical news show, in January after Saudi authorities complained about it. The episode was harshly critical of the Saudi leadership and its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khasohoggi last fall.
“Netflix’s claim to support artistic freedom means nothing if it bows to demands of government officials who believe in no freedom for their citizens — not artistic, not political, not comedic,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement in January.
Hastings touched on a number of other issues during the interview, and shot down rumors that Netflix planned to cut back on its massive spending on original content, which is now around $15 billion a year. “We plan on taking spend up quite a bit,” he said.
He also said it was unlikely Netflix would threaten the business of movie theaters, and defended a recent experiment to let users watch videos sped up 1.5x. “We do care about creators and the creative intentions, but we also care about consumers,” he said, dismissing concerns that sped-up videos messes with creators’ artistic work.
Netflix shares NFLX, +0.19% are up nearly 8% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, +0.07% 23% gain.