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Netflix can 'continue to raise prices' amid new competition, says media mogul Barry Diller

Even after a price hike that sent some Netflix customers to social media in outrage, the company can “continue to raise prices,” said media mogul and tech investor Barry Diller.

Diller acknowledged that the service is “going to have more competition in the future,” with Apple, WarnerMedia, and Disney expected to enter the streaming television space this year.

But “once you've built up to 200 million or so subscribers, it's very hard for anybody to come close. Eventually, the dollars will rationalize and I think [Netflix’s] cash flow will be huge,” said Diller, the chairman of the holding company IAC. As of its third quarter earnings report last October, Netflix had over 137 million subscribers.

Diller made the comments in a conversation that will air on Yahoo Finance on Thursday at 5 p.m. EST in an episode of Influencers with Andy Serwer, a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment. Besides his prediction on Netflix and the TV streaming wars, Diller explained why critics should back off Facebook, what he thinks of the Trump presidency, and what makes him consider Elon Musk a genius.

Diller knows what we want before we even do. He spearheaded first-of-its-kind programming at ABC, such as the “Movie of the Week” and the TV miniseries. Then he helmed Paramount Pictures and Fox over banner years for the companies. In the 1990s, he struck out on his own with IAC, a holding company that has created equity value of more than $50 billion in top brands like Expedia, Ticketmaster, and Tinder.

Diller praised NBC, and its parent company Comcast, which announced on Monday the launch of an ad-supported streaming service set to debut in 2020.

“Rather than plunge into investing billions of dollars chasing Netflix, I think they’ve been very procedural about it and I think it’s wise,” Diller said.

Looking across the media landscape, Diller warned that CBS—which many observers expect to merge with Viacom this year—“has a very hard road ahead.” He described a lack of opportunity for growth in the broadcasting side at CBS, while Viacom’s cable properties face the decline of cable television.

“They’re sitting on ice on those cable programming companies,” he said.

Diller said he is closely watching the investment made by Disney in its direct-to-consumer strategy, especially the Disney+ streaming service set to launch this year.

“He has so completely said, ‘here are the stakes I'm putting up on the table, and this is how I'm going to compete,’” Diller said of Disney CEO Bob Iger. “It will be fascinating to watch.”

Influencers

Shifting from the media titans to the tech giants, Diller said backlash against Facebook has gone too far, while regulation of Google hasn’t gone far enough.

“We’ve all wildly overreacted to Facebook,” said Diller, who has criticized media consolidation for decades. “The truth is they’re hardly an evil force...they’re a platform and platforms can be misused.”

Diller contrasted Facebook with Google, which he said retains “a monopoly position in search.”

“Once you've gotten to such market power, you've got to have regulation that restrains the natural tendencies of monopoly,” he said.

Diller, who for years has drawn upon his multi-billion dollar fortune in support of Democrats, called on President Donald Trump to resign from office.

“Go home. Leave us alone, please,” he said. “This country should learn from the extraordinary mistake it made in electing him president.”

In the 2018 midterm election cycle, Diller donated thousands to the U.S. Senate campaigns of Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. Many expect Brown and O’Rourke to enter the race for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, while Gillibrand announced the formation a presidential exploratory committee on Tuesday.

Asked if he prefers any of the potential Democratic presidential candidates, he said he “likes lots of them” but is “going to wait” for the primary.

“That winnowing process is really healthy,” he said. “I think there are enough really decent and good people that the Democrats will find a candidate.”

A car enthusiast, Diller spoke highly of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“I am mad for Tesla,” he said. “To build a car of that sophistication with no history in that industry is a kind of genius.”

Despite a tumultuous 2018 for the company and Musk, Diller said he’s confident its future is bright.

“I always do believe product is the answer...they'll survive and thrive,” he said.

Diller likes the company’s electric car so much, he owns two, he said.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.

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