TV entertainment takes a broadband leap


Upon the launch of Netflix in the region, the company shares content offerings and other plans for the global expansion.



Recently, Netflix launched its video streaming platform around the globe in 130 new countries to include the UAE and other countries in the GCC and MENA regions. As the service went live around the world, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-founder and CEO made the announcement. Before this new launch, the streaming platform was available in 60 countries.

To its 17 previously established language offerings, Netflix introduced the addition of Arabic, Korean, and Simplified and Traditional Chinese. However, while the company continues to explore avenues of service expansion, Netflix will not be made available in China. Other countries such as Crimea, North Korea and Syria were also left out of the most recent expansion due to US government restrictions for the American company. Apart from Syria, Netflix has rolled out its services to all countries in the region.

The typical service offering of one free month before beginning payment of $7.99 per month has been extended to new UAE customers.

GMR,the sister publication of DOTMENA, had the opportunity to speak with Joris Evers, vice-president and head of communications in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for Netflix. He outlined some of the company’s expansion plans going forward, saying, “We are planning to invest $6 billion to generate content for Netflix in the next 12 months.”

Netflix is becoming widely known for its original content pieces, like the popular series House of Cards and Daredevil. The company has been open in the past about not having measurement incentives to determine the viewership or success of shows on the platform due to the lack of advertising. Evers explains that this deficit will continue for the foreseeable future in every new market into which the streaming giant ventures: “We provide ad-free streaming and this will not change in the foreseeable future,” he explains.

As far as measurement goes, Netflix does not have to answer to advertisers, but many say they might want to answer to their Wall Street investors, especially due to the volume of investment Netflix is making into its original content and its continued plans in this direction in the future. Over this past summer, measurement company Nielsen began work on a program to track viewing on Netflix. According to The Wall Street Journal, Nielsen said it’s now tracking almost 1,000 shows on platforms like Netflix and Hulu. The data, however, will only be shared with affiliated studios and will not include the views a show receives in other markets outside the US.

When asked about Netflix original content, which has made a big impact for the streaming company, Evers explained that as of now, there are not yet plans to produce in-house Arabic content in the Middle East but the company is currently looking at some Turkish series, which, he explains, “are very popular with the Arab viewers.” Although, he does note that Netflix regularly receives scrips and, he says, “If something interesting from this region comes up, our teams will evaluate the script.”

As far as content expansion goes, Netflix’s Evers tells GMR’s Arabic sister-title, Saneou Al Hadath, the network has more than 30 new Netflix original series – or new seasons of existing series – planned for 2016. He continues saying, “Most of these will be available to our members everywhere, exclusively on Netflix, which is more than one full new season of a series every other week.” Furthermore, looking further than original series, Netflix plans to expand its original film offerings, launching over ten new films this year, as well as new children’s programming and documentaries.

While much of Netflix’s original content will be available globally, one criticism of Netflix’s latest expansion is the unavailability of all content that customers have access to in the US. However, the company has alleviated these concerns in a press statement, saying, “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of Jan 15, we now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

One issue that Netflix will face globally and in the region upon the new launch is the use of virtual personal networks (VPNs) and proxies, upon which the company intends to place further restrictions going forward. Yann Lafargue, manager of technology and corporate communications for EMEA at Netflix, says, “We are working towards curtailing the use of Netflix through VPNs or proxies. It’s purely due to licensing issues as some of our shows are licensed to be streamed in few countries.” Evers explains this further to Saneou Al Hadath, saying, “Our goal is to offer a fully global service with a global catalog, so that no one has to wait for the hottest new show or movie. However, the world of content licensing has traditionally been very fragmented and regionalized. It will take some time – several years at least – to get to an offering that’s the same everywhere. Until then, we strive to offer a compelling service everywhere by licensing the best of TV and film available.”

Netflix is working to manage the use of these technologies, saying, “In coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.” Lafargue affirms that, in the near future, the use of VPNs and proxies will be redundant as the company is working to make all content available in all countries. In a statement, the company says, “For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”

Due to the subscriber base, specifically in the US, Netflix is no doubt a competitor to traditional mainstream media outlets. Evers shared his outlook on the future of these types of media, saying, “In the near future, TV service providers will focus on live events such as news and sports, while telecom providers will become Internet providers.” He explains that the future of television is on-demand Internet streaming multichannel media, which consumers will watch on their Smart TVs, Smartphones and tablets.