Netflix passes 20 million subscribers; focuses on ISP disputes, HBO, Facebook in Q4 results

Netflix just released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2010 and of no surprise to anyone who was paying attention last year it did quite well by passing 20 million subscribers, more than double its base at the start of 2009. However, per Biggie's Law mo money = mo problems, and it took the opportunity to respond, surprisingly sharply, to potential threats from its Hollywood content providers and the ISPs its Watch Instantly service streams over. News of note going into 2011? A huge focus on personalization including new integration with Facebook and a mention that Apple TV has already surpassed the iPad in viewing hours. It also showed off the one-click Netflix button on an unspecified (looks like Toshiba to us) remote and compared the "consternation" over its success to the rise of Fox as a broadcast network two decades ago. We'll hop on the earnings call in a few minutes for more details, check after the break for more of the details.

While most recent blockbusters are a no-show on streaming, it proudly celebrated offering all five nominees for the 2011 Best Documentary Academy Award this year (Exit Through the Gift Shop and Restrepo now, Waste Land March 29 with Gasland and Inside Job coming soon) and mentioned plans to keep costs down on offering TV series by continuing to focus mainly on complete sets of older seasons. As far as any problem competing with or licensing content from HBO, it fired back at the doubters by pointing out that during the time Starz content has been on Netflix, Starz' subscriber count has grown while HBO's didn't, all while maintaining successful ratings and DVD sales for its original programming.

On the topic of net neutrality its response was more nuanced, while it called the FCC's resolution a "step in the right direction" it called the policies ISPs that charge it or its CDN partners (cough, Comcast) for transmitting bits requested by their own customers as "inappropriate." The alternative offered is a "open, regional, no-charges, interchange model" where in exchange for a free pass, it or someone like ESPN3 agrees not to turn around and shut off those ISPs. That potential threat could turn traditional business models on their head, but with its growing subscriber base it's clear Netflix feels it has weight to throw around, and plans to drop detailed results on nationwide ISP performance stats tomorrow, mentioning only for now that it considers Charter to be the best.