Five questions answered on Netflix's Facebook "violation"

Digested.

Netflix Inc’s chief executive Reed Hastings is in trouble with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) because of something he posted on Facebook. We answer five questions on his controversial post.

What did Hastings say?

On 3 July Hastings announced on a public Netflicks Facebook page accessible to 244,000 subscribers that one billion hours of video was being viewed a month by members of the video streaming website. 

He said exactly: "Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June."

So, what’s the problem with this post exactly?

The way the information was disclosed is the problem. The SEC believes that this particular figure is material information and therefore should have been disclosed in a press release or regulatory filing.

SEC's Regulation FD, adopted in 2000, requires public companies to make full and fair public disclosure of material non-public information.

What kind of action is the SEC taking?

The "Wells notice," as it is known as, that was received by Netflicks and filed by the company as regulations dictate, states that the SEC is planning on bringing civil action against the company because of the post made by Hastings.

The SEC staff will recommend the full commission pursue either a cease-and-desist action and/ or civil injunction against Netflix and Hastings.

What has Hasting said about his contentious Facebook posting?

According to The Telegraph, Hasting said yesterday that his posting was public enough: "First, we think posting to over 200,000 people is very public, especially because many of my subscribers are reporters and bloggers," 

In a letter posted alongside the regulatory filing he added "We remain optimistic this can be cleared up quickly through the SEC's review process." 

What are other people saying?

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters: "It's totally disingenuous to say that his statement wasn't material when the stock went from under $70 a share to more than $80 and the only data point was that post."

While, Joseph Grundfest, former SEC commissioner and Stanford Law School professor also told Reuters: "The evolution of social media presents the SEC with some very interesting regulatory challenges. But if they're worried about social media, there are ways for them to address that without threatening to sue Reed Hastings. They should have a rulemaking where they can ventilate these issues. "

Netflix is in trouble. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.