Will Netflix Really Go Truly Global?

by Paul Davies, April 1, 2015

Netflix is one of the biggest media streaming apps in the world, particularly popular in the USA and the UK, and yet its presence outside of these countries, and even access to specific content within these countries, is severely limited. Entertainment lovers from all over the world are using methods like EasyHide-VPN to access Netflix – either because the service is not available in their own country, or because they wish to access content that isn’t included on their country’s version of the app. Global availability and global content are a major talking point for users and non-users alike.

Netflix’s recent announcement that they plan to ‘go global’ has seemingly been planned to coincide with the March 31st launch of the service in Australia. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that it’s time for netflix to ‘get global and have its content be the same all around the world’, but is this scenario really believable? If the recent Australian launch – which has been met with mixed reviews – is anything to go by, it’s difficult to imagine a Netflix that’s truly global in every sense of the word.

Global Content Discrepancies

One of Netflix’s most successful original series – prison drama Orange is the New Black – is a delayed addition to the brand new Australian line-up, due to issues with licensing agreements. However, issues with global content aren’t only due to teething problems, and we’re seeing significant differences in content even between the US and UK services which are considered to be very well established.

The 2014 Alan Partridge film, for example, is currently available in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the USA, and yet this British film is not available to users of British Netflix. For a Brit to stream the movie, they’ll need to use a VPN to log on to a foreign version of the app. Similarly, Muppets Most Wanted, a 2014 American movie starring Tina Fey, is currently only available in Australia and Belgium, according to moreflicks.com.

As of 31st March, there were a confirmed 8537 movies and TV shows available through Netflix in the USA, and just 3351 movies and TV shows available in the UK. Given that Netflix was founded way back in 1997, the company have had ample time to sort out legalities, and they’ve largely done a good job of sorting content rights, but, in this instance, it is simply a case of swapping and changing content as and when Netflix chooses. Global content is something we’re failing to see year after year.

Global Availability Issues

Netflix is currently available in the Americas, Greenland, Western Europe (excluding Spain and Portugal), the Baltic region, and Australia, leaving a huge gap across Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and throughout Africa. The good news for many is that we are starting to see Netflix expanding their service to incorporate areas where the service is popular through VPNs but not officially available – such as Iceland and South Africa – but elsewhere, plans seem to have halted, or have never been drawn up in the first place. In China, for example, Netflix have cited complex processes for operating licenses as a reason for a delayed launch , while they’ve also cited Italy’s poor internet infrastructure as a reason for delaying an expansion into Central Europe. With these and other issues, true global reach is something that’s going to be a challenge for Netflix.

Will We Still Use VPNs for Netflix?

The concept of Netflix going truly global is something that is difficult to envisage, given recent announcements and actions by the company. While it’s something they may ultimately strive for, it doesn’t appear to be on the cards for the immediate future.

Additionally, cost is, of course, a major consideration to take into account. Allowing for exchange rate variations, Netflix costs roughly the same in the USA and the UK. Current exchange rates show the UK cost of 5.99 GBP per month as equivalent to 8.89 USD, while the cost for the USA service is currently 8.99 USD. However, US Netflix subscribers have more than twice the choice of British subscribers. VPN use for bypassing regional limitation is something that’s currently strong, and with discrepancies in global content and cost considerations, it is expected that this use will continue to grow despite Netflix’s recent announcements.