There were some interesting tidbits in Netflix’s Q1 earnings call yesterday:
- the idea that the $1 billion writedown Time Warner is expected to take on its broadcast rights to LA Dodgers games could chill Netflix (and other streaming services’) spending on content prices
- that international piracy acts as a “governor” on Netflix subscription prices in international markets where piracy is rife
- that Ted Sarandos unabashedly said Netflix will keep pushing movie studios to release films day-and-date with theatrical releases
… but by far my favorite thing that anybody said on the call was Reed Hastings repeatedly mentioning Poland when talking about Netflix’s determination to get global rights to all content.
He was probably referring teasingly to reports that the company was readying its infrastructure for a Poland launch but the mention of the country that saw the start of another push for world domination made me laugh.
The Netflix juggernaut will keep rolling across the landscape of Europe until it has encompassed all by the end of 2016 — but in this case the conquerer is welcomed and heralded, especially by all the disappointed VPN users the company shut down earlier this year.
I think I need to get out more.
The concept of a Netflix Seal of Approval for televisions is cool for a couple of reasons:
a) There was a time when almost every major electronics maker turned down Netflix’s request to put coupons for free rentals in DVD and TV boxes (See how the worm turns!), and ;
b) The idea of an “Instant On” button, as described in this TechHive post lets us ponder what home entertainment is going to be like when nobody is watching broadcast or cable television any longer. Sort of like a video library where one calmly selects and enjoys content, free of all commercial distractions and time constraints.
Man, if I had known in the 70s and 80s that someday I’d be able to pick up “Lost In Space” or “Gilligan’s Island” at the very point I’d had to turn off the TV to do my homework or eat supper, life would have been a lot more serene for my parents.
I could try to romanticize my childhood “hardship” but, really, I can’t think of anything negative about the internet television viewing. I actually think I spend less time watching TV and get more of the content I want than back in the days when I suffered through the end of “I Love Lucy” and zillions of commercials to see the show I wanted. That’s progress.
So, Netflix will launch en Espana en Octubre, according to entertainment and hardware industry sources polled by the Expansión newspaper. The company apparently has been securing rights to content for Spain and getting its streaming software pre-installed in smart TVs for the Spanish market — all completely normal protocol for an international launch — someday. This Variety article explains that Netflix allegedly decided to push into Spain just a few months after bypassing it in its European launch last year because the country’s improved economic prospects means that the other subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) competitors — Movistar, Canal Plus’ Yomvi, Vodafone-ONO — could become uncatchable. Seems reasonable.
It seems a bit late to try to catch Netflix in Australia/New Zealand — considering the U.S. streaming service has yet to launch and already has more subscribers than the three local services but — well, Blockbuster did the same thing and actually almost caught Netflix in 2007, so you never know. This article from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper shows the lay of the competitive landscape Down Under, as Netflix prepares to launch its streaming-only service on March 24.
Stan and Presto, both joint ventures of Australian media companies, debuted streaming movie-TV show offerings last month (Presto previously had separate services for TV show and movies) and are still working out the kinks with technology, platform availability and content mixes.
Quickflix, the legacy streaming/DVD-by-mail service, reached 136,000 subscribers at the end of last year — well under the estimated 200,000 Australians who have illegally subscribed to Netflix using VPNs to circumvent geo-blocking.
Still, it should be an interesting contest on the content side: Stan managed to get exclusive rights to Breaking Bad and its highly anticipated spin-off, Better Call Saul, and Presto has a deal with HBO to streamcast some of the U.S. premium cable company’s best stuff, including Entourage, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire but not Game of Thrones.
Don’t know how I missed this but Netflix has set an actual date for its Australia/New Zealand launch — March 24 — and started pushing out details about how the streaming service will look and function Down Under. For ongoing details, check out the company’s local social media accounts: Twitter/Instagram (@NetflixANZ), Facebook (www.facebook.com/NetflixANZ) and Tumblr (NetflixANZ).
Sadly, Australians have home data caps but Netflix has worked out an “unmetering” deal with broadband provider, iiNet, to stream “hours of entertainment … with no fear of the usage counting against” the caps. The deal, which mirrors a similar arrangement cut by one of Netflix’s new Australian competitors, provoked the ire of Wall Street Journal columnist L. Gordon Crovier, who thought Netflix was hypocritical for getting special treatment for its content.
Australians and Kiwis and the merchants that serve them don’t seem to care about politics — there’s a smorgasbord of Netflix-related offers out there for the launch of the streaming service, which sails fully formed into the Antipodean market like Venus on a half shell.
Televisions and device manufacturers have gotten on board by offering free Netflix trial subscriptions with purchase of Netflix-enabled devices. Vodafone is giving new mobile phone customers in New Zealand three free months of Netflix. We won’t know anything about pricing until March 24, but the company said it will offer three types of plans: a single-stream standard definition plan, two-stream high-definition plan and four-stream 4K ultra-high definition “family” plan.
This is the first English-speaking market where Netflix will launch its service with a full complement of devices, broadband coverage and well-known original content, so it will be interesting to see what happens with subscriber acquisitions. Can’t wait.
Japan is Netflix’s first official Asian expansion market (although millions of Asians have unofficially joined via VPNs in Netflix countries), and as such, is seen as a test market for China and South Korea. Here’s what Wells said about the Japan rollout, slated for later this year:
Why it won’t be like Netflix’s Quixotic wanderings in Latin America: “The ability to pay, the wealth, all that is there, consumption of online video is huge.”
Why Netflix won’t end up like Hulu, which sold itself of Nippon TV last year: “I’m not sure that (Hulu) received a full level of investment (from its studio owners) in terms of what could be done in a market.”
Connectivity should not be an issue: “There is plenty of high-speed broadband in a better shape than America in terms of density and speed.”
But figuring out the content mix could be challenging. “The glaring line is the propensity to enjoy Japanese content or at least local content or some Korean drama in there (and) some Chinese content as well.”
Netflix will double the number of original shows and movies it produces with the goal of having 40 original programs each year. Content Chief Ted Sarandos expects to reach that level in a couple of years, Wells said.
As always, Wells was cagey about how Netflix measures return on investment for these (sometimes pricey) shows in lieu of ratings (and advertising revenue):
“We don’t have to have a show that has 20 million viewers. A success for us relative to cost might be a show that’s got 2 million to 4 million viewers, and if we can find that set of people that’s going to suit us just nicely,” Wells said.
“As long as we are funding the doubles and triples we’re good. And if that content increasingly works outside the U.S. there is another advantage in terms of being able to distribute to a larger platform outside the U.S. and do that in a very efficient, quick manner where we’re bringing content that is in the right size quickly to those audiences. You don’t have to have the one- and two- and three-year delay that increasingly world consumers are intolerant of and you see that reflected in the piracy numbers.”
What’s cool and somewhat scary about the idea of global micro markets for content is that Netflix will be able to produce some very elaborate data about global media consumption for the first time ever.
The Netflix algorithms’ ability to predict ebb and flow of global tastes will surely yield some interesting insights into other facets of the collective human psyche. Take a look at this story I wrote about how Netflix-type algorithms are being used in other settings.
After testing the waters in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and the Nordics, Netflix has concluded that its international model offering streaming-only with mostly Hollywood-produced content works really well, even in non-English-speaking countries. Wells said demand for “high-quality, western-produced” TV shows and movies is strong globally and international consumers are increasingly aware of streaming and of Netflix.
Thus, Netflix has been constructing content catalogs of around 80 percent Hollywood-produced content and 20 percent local content for each market, Wells said.
The strategy of acquiring popular local content extends Netflix’s “cool factor” by connecting subscribers with global zeitgeist — the same way the company aligned itself with the budding independent film movement, way back when, to culturally elevate online rental above pedestrian Blockbuster and its other store-based competition.
Wells said the top factors in choosing the next expansion market are (pretty obvious, in case you’re wondering why service hasn’t started in your area):
- Broadband penetration
- Consumption of online video
- Disposable wealth
- Netflix’s ability to accept payment in that country