Competing With Sleep

Tim Challies has a thought-provoking piece on what Netflix views as its primary competition. He recounts a recent earnings call in which Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, was answering questions about the company.

One investor asked about Amazon in particular: How will Netflix stay ahead of Amazon and their growing library of Prime videos? Hastings praised Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos, but then went in an unexpected direction. It turns out that Netflix doesn’t actually consider Amazon (or HBO or Hulu or any other similar company) its true competition. Netflix’s main competitor is something far more elemental: sleep. “When you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. You really — we’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time.”

It’s interesting that Hastings is so up front about his company competing with healthy living habits. Of course, Netflix is not alone in this quest to defeat your desire (but not your need) to sleep. Facebook, Twitter and the like, all grasp at whatever time they can get out of your day to get their products in your eyeballs.

Challies is rightfully concerned about this strategy from new media companies. It takes mindfulness and discipline to combat the lure of the screen. In our home, a combination of factors keep us from going overboard on the screen time.

  1. The no-binge rule: Long ago, I set a no-binge rule that my wife and I both have to follow. We can watch no more than two episodes of a show at time, no matter how compelling the content.
  2. Wifi restrictions: The router in the house shuts down at 10pm, so streaming movies, checking social media or just surfing the web is impossible after that time.
  3. We like sleep: Having gone through life with infants and noisy neighbors, we value the ability to slumber in quiet.

As a result of these factors, we don’t blaze through TV series episodes like some other people we know. Sometimes, it takes a while before we can discuss the latest streaming show with friends and family. It’s taken us two weeks to get through he first couple of episodes of The Crown, despite our enjoyment of the show. We’re getting our rest, though, and that is infinitely more important than the latest Netflix drama.