Netflix Using Google Hangouts On Air for a Quarterly Call: Multiple Disruptions

by Chris on July 22, 2013

Tonight Netflix announced its Q2 results. Netflix is not your average company. Most public companies hold the most horrendously BORING conference calls. They start by reading their press release to analysts and investors, which is a stupid waste of time. Then, after a while, they get around to taking questions and providing (hopefully interesting) answers.

For some time now Netflix has done things differently. They publish a letter to investors every quarter, substituting for the boring “prepared remarks” part of a conference call. They’ve typically used a pure audio format for this. But with more and more video happening on the Internet, it seemed only a matter of time before quarterly conference calls moved to video format.

So tonight, Netflix used Google’s new “Hangouts on Air” to broadcast live over YouTube. It was nothing fancy. There were a few executives and a couple of external folks (such as CNBC’s Julia Boorstin). They used laptop computers and webcams. The cost to hold an event like this is ZERO, versus the traditional dial-in conference call services that most companies use, which cost thousands.

The fact that a major public company has used Hangouts On Air to broadcast an investor call live to the world is proof that YouTube has the power to displace pretty much every webinar or online meeting product on the market.

It also shows that every other public company now has to step up its game. The old days of conference calls are about to end. There is no excuse for boring-as-shit corporate presentations done via lame (and expensive) audio-only services.

The format isn’t going to please everyone. Not all analysts will get their questions answered, so they may have to stick around the office later waiting for a CFO call back to adjust their models. Executives will have to be more camera ready, so they won’t be able to hide incongruent messages as easily. The webcam shots that Netflix used weren’t the most flattering. The woman who did the disclaimer intro at the beginning had her webcam aimed up her nostrils. NOt so flattiering. But they’ll figure out that Hangouts on Air supports external USB webcams that can mount to tripods, and the production value will improve.

I should also contrast what Netflix did to what Yahoo did this quarter. Yahoo is a competitor to Google, so rather than using Hangouts On Air, Yahoo used a high production quality news studio setup. But I have to say it came across pretty lame. Executives did the same boring stuff – reading prepared remarks. But since they are not trained news professionals, they were obviously reading the teleprompter and it really didn’t seem genuine.

Our society is now a YouTube society. We prefer lower production quality and sincere delivery over super crip video and boring teleprompter reading sessions.

Google has re-invented the online meeting. Netflix has reinvented the quarterly conference call. Now we get to watch everyone else scramble to catch up.

Here’s the video so you can see exactly what I mean:

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