Netflix’s Tech Army #NextTV

The digital service employs more than 1,000 engineers — but does that give them an advantage?
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Netflix employs a lot of engineers.

Speaking on a panel Thursday at B&C and Multichannel News’ NextTV Summit in Santa Clara, Ovation CEO and DreamWorks Animation digital adviser Charles Segars made the point that while Netflix’s dominance among streaming digital services doesn’t preclude a new competitor from emerging, the company has a huge head start. Its library, for instance, has been significantly beefed up in recent years. Segars also estimated that Netflix has 1,700 engineers on staff. The number drew a full-throated “Wow” from a woman in the audience.

I tweeted Segars’ 1,700 figure, prompting technology consultant and former Cablevision Systems senior VP Jonathan Greenfield to respond, “Sounds high. 2,022 FT empls as of year end. 60% of open jobs are technical (and that includes ops, IT and mgmt).”

Greenfield was pretty close to the mark. A Netflix spokesperson wrote via email, “We have about 2,200 employees and have said in the past that about half that number is engineers.”

So not 1,700, but still a lot of engineers at roughly 1,100. Portfolio manager and self-identified former hacker Alex Derbes noted that the number isn’t the only important thing to note about Netflix’s tech strength, tweeting, “not just quantity. Quality. Great engineers want to work at $NFLX. Engineering culture. HBO?”

He wasn’t the only person to wonder about HBO, which has been ramping up its HBO GO platform. Rich Greenfield, a media and tech analyst at Media & Tech Analyst BTIG, tweeted, “I wonder home many multiples larger than HBO's tech team @netflix’s is?”

That question could become very relevant very fast. On Wednesday, Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes hinted at a financial conference that the company is considering allowing customers to subscribe directly to HBO GO without having to subscribe to cable, saying, “So now the broadband opportunity is getting quite a bit bigger, and the ability of the plant to deliver something robust is getting stronger; and so the question you’re asking is becoming more viable, more interesting.”

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