Netflix has identified a great rival: the popular videogame Fortnite. (Troy Harvey / Bloomberg News)
In 2013, a senior Netflix executive announced that the company's ambition was "to become HBO faster than HBO can become us." The statement made headlines at the time of his audacity: Netflix was looking for the king of premium television.
But now it seems that Netflix has identified an even bigger rival: the popular videogame Fortnite.
The online shooter represents a huge amount of consumer screen time, Netflix said in a letter to shareholders on Thursday, making it a formidable enemy in the global war for the attention of Internet users.
"We gained screen time for the consumer, both mobile and on television, away from a very broad set of competitors," Netflix said in the letter. "We compete with (and lose) against Fortnite more than with HBO. . . There are thousands of competitors in this highly fragmented market competing to entertain consumers. "
Netflix's decision to name Fortnite reflects the growing popularity of the game. It has more than 200 million registered users, and about 80 million log in to play every month, according to Epic Games. Thanks to an attractive combination of reward mechanics, social communication and ease of entry, the game's competitive mode is free: Fortnite rose to new heights last year, which helped Epic make a reported profit of $ 3 billion .
[The app store war between Netflix and Apple is heating up]
Epic wants to translate that success into an even bigger opportunity to connect Internet users, by creating its own apps and games store that undermines the likes of Apple and Google.
For now, Netflix's main short-term threat is still one of the top television content companies. As companies like Disney withdraw their Netflix content before launching their own exclusive video streaming applications, Netflix will face pressure to defend its subscriber base, the only way the company makes money. In its earnings report on Thursday, Netflix said it added modestly to its audience, attracting 1.5 million users in the United States and 7.3 million internationally.
But Netflix's gesture of respect to Fortnite is also an acknowledgment of how significantly Netflix's horizons have expanded.
From its humble days by releasing DVDs to customers through the mail, Netflix has been a video company. Even now, as it invests billions in streaming content, Netflix is limited to showing movies and TV shows. But as it evolves, Netflix has also realized that there are only so many hours in the day, which means only the screen time that consumers should devote to entertainment.
That puts him on a collision course with other digital media: not just YouTube or Hulu, but podcasts, blogs and, yes, videogames.
Netflix shares fell about 4 percent in regular trading on Friday after a mixed earnings report on Thursday night. The company said it added 8.8 million subscribers, a little higher than many badysts' estimates of around 8 million. But its revenues were slightly below badysts' expectations, reaching $ 4.19 billion compared to the consensus projections of $ 4.21 billion.