Netlfix Chief Executive Reed Hastings took a swipe at his HBO rival Richard Plepler during the streaming video service’s fourth quarter conference call Wednesday.
Last week, in a live interview with Buzzfeed and CBS This Morning, Plepler acknowledged the practice of sharing passwords among users of its own streaming service, HBO Go, and basically said he is totally cool with the practice.
“It’s not that we’re unmindful of it, it just has no impact on the business,” Plepler said. He labeled the practice a “terrific marketing vehicle” that could lead to a new generation of subscribers. (See video clip embedded below.)
Netflix, of course, also requires passwords for streaming and reports have surfaced that it may consider looking at ways to limit the practice to boost profitability. It is currently experimenting with membership options that allow for different numbers of simultaneous streams among different users of the same account, for instance.
When asked by one of the analysts on the conference call for his thoughts on Plepler’s comments and his “view around shared password,” Hastings stunned listeners with this response:
“That was an interesting comment I suppose. So I guess Plepler, the CEO of HBO, doesn’t mind me then sharing his account information. So it’s email@example.com and his password is Netflix Bitch.”
Hastings’ surprising comment came as Netflix reported an additional 2.3 million subscribers to its service in the fourth quarter, for a total of 33.4 million, more than HBO in the U.S. The two companies are in a pitched battle on many fronts, chief among them subscriber additions and original programming.
Netflix’s chief content officer famously said in a GQ interview last year that the company’s goal was “to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”
And, of course, Jeff Bewkes, the Chief Executive of HBO parent company Time Warner, famously derided the power of Netflix as akin to the “Albanian Army.”
Representatives for HBO did not respond to a request for comment about Hastings’ remark.