For Netflix Fortnite is a bigger rival than HBO

Briac Agresti-BiagiFortnite

In 2013, a top executive at Netflix famously announced that the company’s ambition was to “become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” The declaration made headlines at the time for its audacity: Netflix was gunning for the king of premium television.

But now it seems Netflix has identified an even bigger rival: the massively popular video game Fortnite. The online shooter accounts for an enormous amount of consumers’ screen time, Netflix said in a shareholder letter Thursday, making it a formidable foe in the global war for Internet users’ attention.

“We earn consumer screen time, both mobile and television, away from a very broad set of competitors,” Netflix said in the letter. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO . . . There are thousands of competitors in this highly-fragmented market vying to entertain consumers.”

Netflix’s decision to name-check Fortnite reflects the game’s ever-growing popularity. It boasts over 200 million registered users, and some 80 million log in to play each month, according to publisher Epic Games. Thanks to an engaging combination of reward mechanics, social communication and ease of entry — the game’s competitive mode is free to play — Fortnite soared to fresh heights last year, helping Epic earn a reported $3 billion in profit.

Epic wants to translate that success into an even bigger opportunity to hook Internet users — by building its own app and game store that undercuts the likes of Apple and Google.

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