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.
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.
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.
It has been four years and change since Netflix launched in its first international market — Canada — with much fanfare and a minor but embarrassing episode involving paid extras who were sprinkled into the crowd at a company-sponsored street party in Toronto. Then came the 2011 Latin American barnstorm-style rollout — Netflix’s most complicated — in which it confronted issues with weak broadband penetration, fewer digital devices, language and credit card processing issues. Great Britain and Ireland followed — with much jockeying from established competitors. Last year’s European launches looked like a snap and those markets, according to the company, been a bigger-than-expected success. And we learned last week that Netflix is fixin’ to take over the world. In two years.
Netflix’s fourth quarter earnings presentation contained the startling statement that the company can complete its international expansion– while staying profitable — in two years. That means growing from about 50 international markets to 200. And even more delightfully, it means that Content Chief Ted Sarandos soon will have the might to negotiate global content deals that enrich selection — opening new worlds of international content to U.S. subscribers and creating a new reality in which Netflix subscribers around the world are watching the same “channel.” Imagine the water cooler talk.
The company’s discovery that its original content – Marco Polo, Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards — performs more efficiently than the stuff it licenses has led to its decision to triple its spending on originals, from 100 hours in 2014 to 320 hours this year. This lovely explosion of films, documentaries, original series and comedy specials presumably will further minimize the importance of “windowing” — distribution deals that cause TV shows and movies to hopscotch aggravatingly across pay-per-view and broadcast services.
Here’s the relevant information from the earnings presentation.
So much for easing the sting of back-to-school with a new fall TV schedule. Netflix said at the Television Critics Association press tour that it will debut a bunch of new original series over the U.S. spring break season. The new series will debut simultaneously in all international markets. These are the new series and debut dates:
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Friday, March 6
A half-hour comedy series by “30 Rock” co-creator Tina Fey stars Ellie Kemper of “The Office” as Kimmy, who escaped a doomsday cult and started life over in New York City. The 13-episode series (also starring Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, and Carol Kane) was written for NBC’s 2014 fall schedule but never aired.”Kimmy” will get a second season on Netflix, and it’ll be interesting to see how Fey and Carlock write the series for streaming.
Bloodline – Friday, March 20
Netflix describes this show, starring Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, as a combination family drama and psychological thriller. The teaser looks cool and very dark.
Marvels Daredevil – Friday, April 10
“Daredevil,” the first of a four part series planned by Marvel and Netflix, stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, the blind superhero who battles injustice by day as a lawyer and takes on villains, including Vincent D’Onofrio’s character Wilson Fisk, by night in modern day Hell’s Kitchen. The 13 one-hour episodes debut simultaneously, of course, at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Netflix. The four-part epic begins with 13 0ne-hour “Daredevil” episodes and continues with at least three more 13-episode seasons featuring “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage” in coming years. The series culminates in Marvel’s “The Defenders” mini-series.
Grace and Frankie – Friday, May 8
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star in a 13-episode comedy about a pair of frenemies (Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston) who are thrown together after their husbands run off with each other.
And for the kiddos — The Adventures of Puss in Boots debuts Jan. 16.
Binge watching of “Friends” — newly added to Netflix’s catalog — apparently supplanted many people’s New Year’s Day football watching tradition yesterday. Major media outlets and blogs provided guides to the best of the 200+ episodes that became available for streaming on Jan. 1. Remember how new TV shows debuted on broadcast and cable television back when “Friends” was huge, and anchored NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” lineup? Ah, doesn’t the idea of appointment television seem a bit … quaint?
At first, the strange intrigue around “The Interview” seemed like a brilliant ploy by Sony to get attention for a holiday release that, though controversial, looked like a box office dud. The whole thing, delightfully nasty leaked emails aside, looked like a marketing plan gone terribly wrong.
I mean, look at this message from the purported North Korean hackers:
“The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”
It reads like a line from a South Park movie.
Well, Sony has now pulled the movie’s Christmas Day release and Homeland Security’s involved so it must be real. Some want to let pirates distribute it. But Sony can turn this lump of coal into a great gift for consumers — by simply switching the theatrical release to a streaming release.
“The Interview” could be the best test case ever for releasing a first-run movie via streaming now that the viewing public has been primed by round-the-clock publicity. Terror threats presumably would not be part of a normal first-run streaming release but the necessity, in the case of “The Interview,” of moving the whole shebang online to avoid violence creates an interesting paradigm for future releases. It would be cool to watch uncut interviews from the movie junkets, maybe a fake red carpet (shot on a soundstage) and all the trailers in one place as part of the price of admission.
Of course, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu may not want to touch this because of potential hacking danger to their own online systems, but it is a real shame that this threat could stop even a supposedly silly movie like “The Interview” from being seen.
After its success with adult-oriented shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” Netflix is stocking its library with some high-profile family-friendly franchise. The popular streaming video service recently got the rights to serialize Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a delightfully dark young-adult series that has the potential to intrigue audiences both young and old, with which Netflix is hoping to capture the broad demographic that encompasses the “family” genre. Netflix’s vice-president Cindy Holland told Deadline, “On the search for fantastic material that appeals to both parents and kids, the first stop for generations of readers is A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The world created by Lemony Snicket is unique, darkly funny and relatable. We can’t wait to bring it to life for Netflix members.”