"We're hopeful that we'll, over time, make a great Bollywood show, make a great anime show," Hastings told audience members Tuesday at a conference hosted by the New York Times.
These are more than artistic ambitions. They're part of a sophisticated strategy to map Netflix to the Internet and its various little inlets, bays and lagoons, tailoring the streaming video service so that every conceivable audience, sub-audience and micro-audience can find a unique show that speaks to them (while also hopefully appealing to everyone else).
Netflix wants to reach every corner of the Internet with original content, especially internationally, where most of its growth potential now lies. But thinking about this in terms of geography is actually more limiting than enlightening; the whole point of the Web is that it allowed previously distant people from around the world with shared traits to find one another. On forums and message boards, Google groups and blogs, communities sprang up around politics, celebrities, science and chronic disease.
Netflix, and its competitors, are in a perfect position to study these crowds and mold themselves to them. There's a good chance that an average person who frequents a subreddit on basketball is also a Netflix viewer. Netflix might not be aware of that connection specifically, but it can certainly track the number of people who, say, search Netflix for basketball movies.
It was this kind of data analysis that led to "House of Cards" in the first place. Netflix knew that it was attracting political drama fans because the British version of "House of Cards" was wildly popular on its service. Those same fans, Netflix soon realized, were also fans of Kevin Spacey and the director David Fincher.
"Therefore," Andrew Leonard wrote for Salon in 2013, "a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer."
Netflix's ability to slice and dice Hollywood genres with exact specificity opened the door to all kinds of original content. The challenge facing Netflix now is understanding which audiences to go after, and when. How should this number-crunching, behavior-monitoring, interest-gathering machine be put to work?
It's a particularly thorny problem because as Netflix has vastly expanded into original content, so have its rivals, from Amazon to YouTube. Plus, premium cable channels are increasingly launching their own streaming video apps, which threaten to lure viewership away from Netflix.
All this is creating a flood of new TV shows that threaten to overwhelm audiences and make it more difficult for Netflix's own shows to stand out. Analysts predict that Netflix could eventually roll out as many as 40 new original series a year, and possibly more.
"That'd be great to aspire to, but how do you maintain the quality?" Showtime chief executive Matthew Blank asked Hastings in a Q&A session during the conference.
"You go beyond the normal spectrum to get quality," Hastings replied. "And on-demand and the Internet gives you a lot of that power. When you've got incredible distribution, then you have to open up the front end of the funnel to have incredible producers around the world."
That's where "Narcos," Netflix's recent hit Spanish-language drama about drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, comes in. It's how you get superhero serials like "Daredevil." And it's ultimately what explains Hastings's plan for Bollywood and anime. Even if it didn't create those genres, the company is determined to access them.
A Netflix original along those lines may appeal only to niche audiences. But that matters a lot less when you're targeting every single niche audience on the Internet in an effort to cover the whole expanse of the Web.
Most of us think of Netflix as simply TV, but on the Internet. Netflix, however, has a bigger goal. It's trying to become the entire Internet's TV.