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Netflix signals play plans with video exec hiring

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Netflix is offering more signs of a move into video games which may be played on the streaming television service./AFP
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Jul 16, 2021 - 05:05 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Netflix on Thursday confirmed that it recruited a video game veteran from Facebook to lead a gaming team at the television star

Mike Verdu was hired to take charge of video game development at the Silicon Valley company, which has openly called hits such as “Fortnite” competition for people’s online entertainment time.

Netflix has played with games before, releasing an interactive “Bandersnatch” episode of original series “Black Mirror” and also a free mobile game spinning off its hit “Stranger Things” shows.

The company has slowly added video game talent, but Verdu is a high-profile recruitment that could signal ramped up plans.

The 50-year-old has worked at Atari, Electronic Arts and Zynga. Prior to joining Netflix, Verdu was a vice president at Facebook working on games for Oculus virtual reality headgear.

Netflix’s plans still appear to be embryonic, however, with the platform not yet having decided whether it will develop its own content or host games created by third parties.

With the global gaming market now exceeding $300 billion, according to an April study by consulting firm Accenture, Netflix’s move would open a new and highly lucrative stream of revenue for the tech giant.

“We’ve continually expanded our offering — from series to documentaries, film, local language originals and reality TV,” a Netflix spokesperson recently told AFP.

“Members also enjoy engaging more directly with stories they love — through interactive shows like ‘Bandersnatch’ and ‘You v. Wild,’ or games based on ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘La Casa de Papel’ and ‘To All the Boys,'” the spokesperson said.

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings has repeatedly emphasized that the company’s main competitors are not just other big-name streamers like HBO, Hulu or Disney+ but include a variety of other online and mobile entertainment platforms.

“We compete so broadly,” Hastings told analysts last October as he presented the company’s quarterly earnings.

“We compete for time against TikTok and YouTube as well as HBO as well as Fortnite,” he said.

Netflix last week hired the head of Apple Podcasts, N’Jeri Eaton, to lead a podcasting effort at the streaming television service.

It remained to be seen how Netflix would weave games or podcasts into its subscription service.

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