Netflix to go global in 2016?
James R | On 11, Jun 2015
Netflix has reportedly disclosed plans to give customers access to content currently only available in other countries.
According to The Daily Mail, the VOD service aims to give Australians access to all of its streaming library next year.
At present, members are restricted in their streaming options by their region, with Netflix US subscribers, for example, enjoying access to around 9,000 TV shows and films, far more than some other countries (the UK has closer to 3,000).
Some Netflix subscribers use VPN services to trick the VOD service into thinking they’re from a different country, which gives them access to previously unavailable titles. This, however, goes against the copyright rules in place for each territory, because – much like cinema releases – studios sell the rights for shows and films to different broadcasters (or streaming services) in different markets. In the US, for example, AMC’s The Walking Dead is on Netflix UK. In the UK, it is on Amazon Prime.
In an online age, the TV and film industry’s territorial approach is beginning to look increasingly out-of-date. While Sony’s The Interview was released day-and-date at Christmas in the US, for example, UK cinemas did not show the comedy until after it was available on America’s Netflix catalogue.
It is widely reported that studios are placing pressure on Netflix to enforce its geographical restrictions, something that led to Netflix updating its terms and subscriptions earlier this year to warn customers against using VPN services to mask their IP address.
The VOD service, though, has another solution: make everything available to everyone. In Australia, where it launched recently (despite already having customers there using its service illegitimately), pressure has been particularly strong, as the country’s streaming library consists of only around 1,500 titles.
“The plan is to go global next year,” a Netflix spokesman told Daily Mail Australia.
“It means subscribers won’t have to worry about whether there’s 8000 titles available in the US and only about 2000 in Australia.”
“If you are in Australia, the US, South America or Europe, it won’t matter, the plan is to give everyone the same access,” they added.
Such a move would help to establish Netflix as the leading subscription VOD service in the world. If its existing deals were extended across all territories, it would give the company an effective monopoly over the market – indeed, Netflix has already raised its prices twice in the past year for UK members.
But it would also be a major headache for the industry: while one title might be currently signed with Netflix in America, a new deal would have to be reached for Netflix France. This would also impact upon deals with other broadcasters or streaming services in each country. While global parity on subscription VOD is sure to be an eventuality, as the industry struggles to combat piracy (both geographic and torrenting), for the legal logistics to be worked out as soon as next year is something that should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.
The news follows Netflix’s plans to launch in Portugal, Spain and Japan this year. Yesterday, Netflix raised its prices for UK subscribers to £7.49 a month to help cover the costs of expansion, including its ability to “continue adding more TV programmes and films”.