Netflix wants to make its TV shows and movies available to subscribers across the globe. Issues like piracy and international licensing, however, may prove insurmountable, sending the dreams of TV fans around the world up in smoke.
Currently, Netflix users in different countries have access to a different selection of content. But Netflix, Inc. CEO Reed Hastings has said that his company is focused on making universal content a reality.
There are two main obstacles in making that happen. The first is virtual private networks (VPNs). Netflix subscribers who want to watch content that’s not available in their country use VPNs as a workaround. Since customers have already paid their dues, VPNs aren’t a big deal to Netflix, Hastings said.
“The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to [use a VPN],” he explained. “Then we can work on the more important part which is piracy. Piracy is really the problem around the world.”
For some time now, streaming media piracy has been the single biggest threat to Netflix and other streaming media companies. How exactly Netflix plans to combat piracy is unclear.
Another obstacle will be getting global licensing agreements in place. But, Hollywood may be willing to negotiate some never-before-seen deals if doing so will help Netflix curb piracy in the process.
However it plays out, it’s clear that global content is steadfast in the company’s sights. This may in part be a reaction to the fact that Netflix is under increasing pressure from competitors.
And it’s not just the big guys—like Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus. New players in the streaming media market are giving Netflix some cause for concern.
First, the free service Popcorn Time is eating up a noticeable part of Netflix’s customer base. (Controversy swirls over the legality of Popcorn Time, and whether it constitutes piracy. For now, it continues to operate very much in the open.)
Then there are the new Internet TV services. Sling TV, from DISH Network, launched last month offering subscribers access to a package of popular TV channels and movies for $20/month. Apple is reportedly set to launch an Internet TV streaming service this fall.
Plus, networks like HBO and CBS have broken free from the cable box and are now offering standalone subscriptions to customers. Other networks are expected to follow suit in the arms race to stay competitive.
Netflix will have to find a way to keep ahead of the curb as customers interested in cutting the cable cord see their options increase.