Technology

CES 2016: Netflix expands to new countries, predicts end of regional differences

Netflix has more than tripled the number of countries in which it can be accessed, and says the outdated licensing models that slow film release dates could be eliminated within five years.

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Netflix triples overnight

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announces at the CES in Las Vegas last week that the streaming service is now available in 190 countries, up from 60.

At the opening keynote of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said the US-based streaming service had now switched on in 130 new countries including Azerbaijan, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia.

Before Wednesday, Netflix was available in 60 countries and 17 languages. It launched in Australia in March 2015 and is the leading streaming service in the country by a strong margin, followed by locally owned services Stan*, Presto and Quickflix.

Since January, Netflix has been available in most of the world. But every country's catalogue is different, and some ...
Since January, Netflix has been available in most of the world. But every country's catalogue is different, and some have more content than others. 

Mr Hastings said territorial licensing restrictions — which cause the difference in content across Netflix regions that has been highlighted as a key complaint by Australian users — would be eliminated over the next decade.

"As we build our library and renew existing deals we're getting to the state where over the next five or 10 years everything will be consistent around Netflix and everything will be available globally," he said in a Q&A session following the keynote address.

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"We're moving as quickly as we can ... [but] we're still somewhat a prisoner of the current distribution architecture.

"We want the citizens of the world to have the same content."

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings: "What did you do when you didn't watch Netflix? You watched cable, you watched a ...
Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings: "What did you do when you didn't watch Netflix? You watched cable, you watched a sports game, you killed time on Facebook. That's what we compete with."  Photo: David Paul Morris

Mr Hastings said that as a private company Netflix could work quicker to break down legacy global distribution arrangements than governments could.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said content distribution no longer needed to be fragmented.

Netflix everywhere: Hastings says China is now the only major country without Netflix.
Netflix everywhere: Hastings says China is now the only major country without Netflix. Photo: Bloomberg

"It's going to be a patchwork for a while but all that regional availability is going to narrow over time," he said.

"The technology is there; it's the business models that now stand in the way.

"The constraints of linear television are falling away one by one."

The fragmented nature of global film and television distribution rights was a factor in the company's decision to invest in original content such as House of Cards, Mr Sarandos said. While Netflix has sold local distribution rights to some of its original shows in the past to offset risk, most Netflix original productions would be available worldwide in the future, he said.

The company announced new original content launching in 2016, including a series by Australian director Baz Luhrmann and a series about Queen Elizabeth called The Crown. Popular series Orange is the New Black, which starred Australian actress Ruby Rose in the third season, will return for a fourth season.

Disney owned content including the blockbuster Star Wars franchise will also be available in 2016.

Mr Hastings said Netflix had no plans to introduce live content such as sports and news, because traditional broadcasting was "actually quite good for that".

The company is however experimenting with new content delivery platforms such as virtual reality. While it had "no concrete plans" to deliver 3D virtual reality content, Netflix will make sure its existing content can at least be watched on these devices, he said.

Since the arrival of Netflix and other streaming services in Australian in 2015, the use of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol, which is commonly used for sharing pirated content, has dropped 14 per cent.

*Stan is jointly owned by Channel Nine and Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

Hannah Francis travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG.

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