eMerge Americas

Streaming rivals, bring it on: Netflix co-founder

Netflix's 'astounding' success: Co-founder
Netflix's 'astounding' success: Co-founder

Netflix co-founder and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Marc Randolph told CNBC on Monday he's not bothered by the fierce competition in online streaming video.

"As each of these services begins creating their own content, it purely creates an explosion of choice. And I think that's a wonderful thing," Randolph said in a "Squawk Box" interview from the eMerge Americas technology conference in Miami.

His comments come in the wake of Amazon saying Sunday it's offering its video-streaming service as a stand-alone option for $8.99 per month, a dollar cheaper than Netflix's standard plan and a dollar more than Hulu.

Previously, the only way to get Prime Video in the U.S. was to buy an Amazon Prime membership for an annual cost of $99. Prime has lots of other perks, including free shipping on many items purchased on Amazon.

"As a personal subscriber, I see no problem subscribing to multiple services. I just don't only watch Netflix. I do watch HBO. I do watch movies from Apple; just the same way I eat at different restaurants all the time," said Randolph, who started Netflix in 1997 with current chairman and CEO Reed Hastings. Competition validates the mission of Netflix to make it easy to watch content, Randolph told CNBC.

"When we were starting … it was a DVD-by-mail business," said Randolph, who was Netflix's first CEO. He was on the board until 2004. "We never imagined that we could take down Blockbuster and that we could pass HBO in subscribers."

"It's always been tough for Netflix, even from the very beginning. Any start-up is tough. And as you crest one hill and you think you've achieved something, you only see a bigger mountain in the future," Randolph reflected, saying he's "more surprised than anybody" at how much Netflix has grown over the years.

Randolph said later Monday in a separate interview with CNBC on the sidelines of the eMerge Americas conference that he was particularly "proud and surprised and delighted" that "Netflix and chill" has been a part of America's lexicon – evidence of how mainstream the service has become. Randolph said it's a "little bit funny" that one of his largest accomplishments as an entrepreneur is helping people bide time in the evening or get through exam weeks and even "help the population explosion" — a nod to the "Netflix and chill" slang phrase.

Randolph said he can still remember the first time he saw "Netflix" as a clue in a New York Times crossword puzzle. "It astounded me that Netflix … had been popular enough to become part of popular culture," he said.

Since Randolph retired in 2004, the company has expanded considerably with more than 75 million members.

Netflix faces its next challenge Monday evening when the company reports quarterly earnings. Netflix shares were down more than 4 percent midday Monday on the Amazon news. But the stock is up more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and has risen about 220 percent in the past five years.

Additional reporting by CNBC's Katie Little at eMerge Americas.

eMerge Americas is a tech, entrepreneurship and innovation conference in Miami. The conference mission is to establish Miami as the tech hub of the Americas by connecting attendees to innovations in North America, Europe and especially Latin America. CNBC's Melissa Lee and Jon Fortt will be on the ground conducting interviews and moderating panels and keynotes. CNBC is the official media sponsor of eMerge for the second year in a row.