Netflix’s Reed Hastings believes AT&T Time Warner merger could be good for consumers

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings isn’t bothered by the idea of a marriage between mobile powerhouse AT&T and HBO’s parent company Time Warner, “As long as HBO’s bits and Netflix’s bits are treated the same [by regulators],” he said.

Hastings, who was speaking at the Wall Street Journal Live conference this evening sparred with Comcast over a proposed Time Warner merger in 2014, fearing the deal could mean Comcast would have the ability to block broadband internet access to Netflix customers.

However, Hastings sees the AT&T Time Warner deal as potentially beneficial and says his main concern is Net Neutrality.

“I think AT&T’s going to be aggressive about building a national competitor to all of the cable companies like DirectTV has been to the satellite companies — and if they pull that off that would be in the consumer’s interest,” Hastings said.

However, the streaming entertainment company CEO gave a long pause when asked if he might consider going after Time Warner himself. “Next question. That was not a no,” he eventually said.

Though Hastings was coy about any potential acquisition of a major content provider he might be interested in he was not shy about mentioning some of the original content Netflix is now producing.

The company has shared original content for a while now via House of Cards, Narcos and others but it debuted its first big, in-house production, Stranger Things, this summer — and that approach is the way of the future for Hastings and his entertainment platform.

“We’re going to evolve past just the Hollywood enclave and really try to unleash the world’s great, high-end creators,” he said.

Netflix, now in 130 countries running on more than 600 ISP’s, takes that goal region-by-region and Hastings seems practical about how to reach different consumers in different areas, but he says he has a long way to go to capturing attention away from all the apps and social media networks and all the other things that take away from giving Netflix our attention.

The real challenge, he says, is figuring out what the next thing is to capture that attention, “Is it VR, is it gaming, is it pharmacological?” he said.

Hastings then entertained a weirdly off-script and hilarious projection about that last part, “In twenty or fifty years taking a personalized blue pill, you just hallucinate in an entertaining way and then a white pill brings you back to normality is perfectly viable; and if the source of human entertainment in thirty or forty years is pharmacological we’ll be in real trouble,” he said.

But, getting back on track, Hastings was hopeful AT&T might throw in some money in the future to make some of those original shows Netflix is famous for, right alongside competitors like Hulu, Amazon and his company.

Overall, Hastings believes he’s in the business of “turning money into joy” and “eliminating boredom and loneliness” more than anything.

AT&T and others who want to own original content, not just control the pipe see the advantage in that — Netflix just posted a juicy quarter, adding 3.2 million subscribers, with expectations to grow subscribers — and revenue — even more this holiday season.