Eutelsat CEO joins Netflix board of directors

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WASHINGTON — Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer, who ran the French film and television studio Canal Plus before taking the helm of the world’s third largest satellite fleet operator, has joined the board of directors of Netflix.

The move comes as many of the world’s satellite operators are fighting to preserve their broadcast television business amid the rapid growth of so-called “over-the-top” streaming entertainment services that bypass traditional cable or satellite TV services to reach viewers via the internet.

Belmer brings to 10 the number of executives on Netflix’s board, joining other tech leaders such as Microsoft president Brad Smith, Zillow Group executive board chairman Richard Barton, and Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings.

“We look forward to benefiting from Rodolphe’s wisdom, experience and global perspective as we continue to grow Netflix all over the world,” Hastings said in a Jan. 22 statement.

Netflix generated $11.7 billion in revenue in 2017 and nearly tripled year-over-year net income to $559 million. The Los Gatos, California-based company’s success in “over-the-top” delivery of video entertainment to more than 100 million subscribers worldwide via terrestrial and cellular networks has put pressure on cable TV and direct-to-home satellite broadcasters — both mainstay customers for the satellite industry.

Satellite operators typically insist that the one-to-many broadcast ability of their spacecraft makes satellite the most cost effective way to reach large numbers of viewers.

Nonetheless, several have invested in internet-based video delivery, which brings advantages such as letting viewers watch what they want regardless of traditional broadcast schedules.

Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat launched an OTT service with Globecast in 2015, SES and the University of Rutgers tested the use of satellite for OTT in 2016, and AsiaSat last week added internet-based content delivery and OTT services to its product suite.

Eutelsat, in hiring Belmer in 2015, said his experience wrestling with OTT as a film and television executive would benefit Eutelsat. Belmer worked for Canal Plus Group for 14 years, including a stint as CEO from 2012 to 2015.