Maybe you thought Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) was getting uppity when CEO Reed Hastings joined Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) board of directors. Then you'll be shocked to hear that Facebook just added the man to its own board.
"Reed is an entrepreneur and technologist who has led Netflix to transform the way people watch movies and TV," says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "He has built a culture of continuous rapid innovation, something we share and work hard to build every day."
A new director here or there is usually not huge news, but this one's a game-changer for both Facebook and Netflix.
For those who thought that Facebook was gearing up to kill Netflix with its own movie-streaming platform, this announcement drives an iron spike through the heart of that worry. But that much was obvious from the start. Facebook's pay-per-view rental model is very different from a Netflix subscription; the two play to entirely different audiences.
If Facebook is threatening anybody in the media space, it'd be the other pay-as-you-go movie outlets, including Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) and other on-demand cable services along with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and the rental options in the iTunes movie store. By the way, those guys don't play in the Netflix sandbox either and just might be the next to invite Hastings for coffee and a board seat. And now Hastings steps aboard to help Facebook figure out how to play that game -- a powerful weapon in the company's arsenal.
So Netflix loses a perceived threat, which is worth a modest intraday share-price bump. Facebook gains an advisor with experience taking online businesses public and plenty of digital-media expertise. And Hastings becomes a strangely direct connection between Microsoft and Facebook. That might not mean much -- after all, Microsoft is a well-known investor in the social network, so there's an existing link -- but Hastings could become a force of alignment between Redmond and Zuckerberg. It's something to think about.
Is Reed Hastings all done branching out, or will he land on more of these highly public board seats? Add Netflix to your Foolish watchlist, and you'll be the first to know.