Netflix CEO gives conditional approval of AT&T-Time Warner deal

Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, speaks during the opening night of the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings said he was in favor of AT&T Inc’s planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, provided that his popular media streaming company continued to be treated fairly.

Speaking at a technology conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal in Laguna Beach, Calif., Hastings said it was critical that Netflix’s content be treated the same as Time Warner’s once the deal takes effect.

“If it’s open competition, we’d love that,” he said.

Hastings has been an outspoken advocate of net neutrality, which holds that Internet service providers should not favor some types of content over others.

“The key thing is net neutrality, which has not been AT&T’s favorite topic,” he said.

AT&T on Saturday announced the landmark deal, which would give the company control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted assets, reshaping the media landscape. But shares of both AT&T and Time Warner fell Monday on concerns that the acquisition would not withstand scrutiny from regulators.

Netflix has been facing a slowdown in subscription growth in the United States as the market matures. It also faces competition from the likes of Hulu and Inc.

The accelerating pace of deals in media has fueled speculation that Netflix could be among the next acquisition targets. But Hastings signaled that the company is set on independence.

“I can’t tell you how many bankers have called this week,” he said. “We don’t take any of the calls.”

Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Shri Navaratnam