At the start of this month, Netflix became available in 130 more countries around the world. Just to put this in context, in 2015 the service was available in only 60 countries and this move now effectively means that there are only three countries and one territory that cannot use the service. So if you were looking to ‘Netflix and Chill’ in China, North Korea, Syria or Crimea, then I’ve got some bad news for you…
With North Korea, Syria and Crimea the issues lie with U.S. government restrictions on American companies, whereas with China it lies with difficulties in the Chinese market. Bloomsberg’s Adam Minter points to the rampant piracy of digital content in China on the one hand, and the country’s censorship legislation on otherwise purchased content on the other, as to what makes it such a difficult task for a streaming service like Netflix to break through into the country. As usual, the issues lie with government disputes and national legislation, rather than interest among the general public. In fact, in China there is quite a high demand for the Netflix original series House of Cards, but it doesn’t look they’ll be receiving the service any time soon.
So what does the globalisation of Netflix mean for those who can actually use it? Well for starters, there’s the obvious point that these countries now have access to a number of Netflix originals, alongside an already well-stocked catalogue of other films and series, perhaps for the first time ever. The company has announced that in 2016 they plan to release “31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series” to everyone who has access to the service. Even if you live in a country that had access to Netflix before the move, the plan to release even more new content can only be regarded as a benefit to your user experience.
Plus, this may be swayed a little too much by my own experiences, but the availability of the service in the majority of the world is likely to be of particular interest to holiday-makers. For example, Spain was one of the countries to be granted access to the service in one of the reason moves by Netflix and as a country its tourism industry is massive. In fact, in 2015 it was ranked first among 141 countries in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum. Sure for many of us travelling is about going out and doing things, but when the weather decides to be uncooperative or you’re so sunburnt that you can’t leave the hotel, wouldn’t it be nice to login into your Netflix account on whatever device you’ve brought with you and to just watch the shows you love? You couldn’t before, but now you can! I can almost hear the hungover patrons of San Antonio in Ibiza cheering (albeit quietly) at the good news!
Plus, the growth of the service’s audience will promote diversity in the kind of content that it provides its users. In a perfect world where licensing wasn’t an issue, they would be able to distribute the same content all across the globe, but since that’s not the case we’ll just have to settle for the new original content. As of now we only have an ‘International Film’ category to serve that purpose in some cases, but it would be nice to see this expand now that Netflix has to cater to more diverse audiences. Of course, as pointed out before with the example of House of Cards and China, content doesn’t necessarily divide its viewer base based on national boundaries, but the globalisation of the service could allow for influences from around the world to have a greater impact on what is available.
All in all, this is an exciting move that will potentially have a huge effect on the way that we use streaming services in the future. Now we’ve just got to work on getting the service to be available in China, Syria, North Korea and Crimea!