Netflix hires former Facebook exec as gaming VP to focus beyond films, shows

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Netflix logo is seen on a keyboard in front of displayed "Streaming service" words in this illustration

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc said on Wednesday it has hired a former Facebook executive to lead its video games unit as the company ramps up its efforts to grow beyond its traditional streaming business.

The streaming giant hired Mike Verdu, who was most recently a Facebook vice president, as VP of game development and he will report to Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters.

Verdu founded his own defense software company at age 20 and sold it before shifting his team into video games in 1990.

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He has been there ever since, working at Atari, Electronic Arts, Kabam and other developers and overseeing games including “Lord of the Rings.”

Netflix’s expansion comes at a time when the company is looking at new ways to draw in subscribers in an attempt to stave off fierce competition from the likes of Disney+, Apple TV+ and AT&T’s HBO Max.

Netflix has previously experimented with interactive programming with movies such as “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” and “You vs. Wild” that enabled viewers to decide the characters’ moves.

It has also created games based on shows “Stranger Things” and “La casa de Papel (Money Heist)” and recently launched an online store to sell merchandise related to its TV shows. (This story refiles to remove extraneous letter in the first paragraph)

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(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Nivedita Balu; Additional reporting by Ann Maria Shibu and Paresh Dave; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)