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Netflix CEO’s Password Joke Shows Rivalry With HBO Is Getting Serious

The rivalry between Netflix and HBO has reached the smack-talk level.

An apparently feisty Reed Hastings broke out some tough language last Wednesday (Jan. 22) while discussing the results of a solid fourth quarter that later in the week helped propel Netflix stock to an all-time high.

It all came about when Hastings took joking aim at HBO CEO Richard Plepler, when the Netflix chief was asked about the HBO exec’s position on the controversial topic of password sharing.

But first some background: Earlier this month, Plepler told BuzzFeed business editor Peter Lauria that the practice of sharing passwords was “a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers.” Further, password sharing is “not material to our business. It has no real effect on the business,” Plepler said.

“I guess Plepler … doesn’t mind sharing his account information,” Hastings said, “so it’s Plepler@hbo.com, and his password is ‘NetflixBitch.’ ”

That was an apparent reference to the expletive oft-used by Jesse Pinkman, the character played by Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad, the award-winning series that owes Netflix partial credit for the rising popularity it enjoyed during its multiyear run.

Though seemingly harmless, Hastings’s barb, which of course went viral on Twitter moments after it was uttered, was another clear indication that the rift between the two companies is growing increasingly heated.

As BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, who moderated the video-streamed call with Netflix execs, noted in his blog: “The joke points to the growing rivalry between the companies; Netflix has been aggressively gunning for HBO’s content quality and mindshare in recent years with its own original programming and competitive features.”

HBO, meanwhile, hasn’t closed the door on offering its content- rich online HBO Go directly to the consumer, a la Netflix. Now it’s only offered via multichannel distributors. “It’s about arithmetic,” Plepler said. “If the arithmetic changes and the arithmetic makes sense in a different way, we are not going to be caught without the ability to pivot.”

Considering that Netflix is taking dead aim at HBO, it’s assumed the premium programmer is working on its ability to throw a few jabs and uppercuts, as well.

Outdoor Super Bowl Gets Cold Reception From Deion Sanders

This Sunday’s played-in-the-elements Super Bowl (on Fox) will combine two great conversational topics: weather and football. That was evident at the Television Critics Association’s 2014 Winter Tour this month in Pasadena, Calif.

Hall of Fame football player Deion Sanders said he deplored the decision to play the game in the outdoor MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, what with the polarvortex cold that has gripped much of the country and that could turn the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks game into an ice bowl.

“I’m upset that the Super Bowl is in New York because weather will play a factor,” he said during OWN’s Jan. 9 panel touting his new reality series, Deion’s Family Playbook. “Weather should not play a factor in a game of that magnitude and multitude. If Peyton Manning goes to New York, you know what’s going to happen. Peyton Manning does not fare well in the cold,” he said of the Broncos’ New Orleans-born star quarterback.

Taking a different view was the New Jersey-based baker who appeared at the UP network presentation. Angela Logan, whose inspirational story of baking and selling apple pies to avoid a home foreclosure is portrayed in UP’s Apple Mortgage Cake, said her now-thriving business was selected as one of the official dessert caterers for the VIP party at Sunday’s big game.

As counter programming, Nat Geo Wild has a different bowl on offer: the four-hour (6-10 p.m. ET/PT) Fish Bowl, tracking the movements of Goldie the Goldfish. She also appeared at TCA.

Animal Planet brought a bevy of puppies to Pasadena to promote the 10th anniversary of Puppy Bowl (3-5 p.m. ET/PT). New wrinkles to the canine contest this year include “Internet sensation Keyboard Cat” performing at halftime.

That halftime casting coup might be seen as a defensive play against Hallmark Channel’s first-time Kitten Bowl. It airs at noon ET/PT with human hosts Beth Stern and John Sterling and celebrity guests such as Regis Philbin and Rachael Ray — who will definitely be seen indoors.

— R. Thomas Umstead

Wheeler’s Words Lost in Transit Over the Web

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent West Coast swing featured three events that were to be either streamed live or posted within an hour of completion.

One was his Q&A at the biggest collection of the tech-savvy this side of the Rockies: International CES in Las Vegas. OK, it was actually on the other side of the Rockies, but the point is made. That speech was supposed to be available an hour or so afterward, but due to technical difficulties didn’t make it onto the site until the next day.

Then came his big policy speech in Mountain View, Calif. Those remarks, about access to the Internet, were delivered from the Computer History Museum, home, according to Wikipedia, to more computer artifacts than any museum other than the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Germany. (But you knew that.)

The speech was supposed to be live-streamed, of course, this being the computer age and it being a computer museum. But instead it was inaccessible over the Internet, due, again, to some of those pesky technical difficulties.

The only stream on Wheeler’s trip that went off without a hitch was from an Oakland, Calif., town hall meeting. Access was provided in that case by the aptly named Voices for Internet Freedom, a collaboration of Free Press and the Center for Media Justice.

— John Eggerton