In January, Netflix expanded to 190 countries. Rather tellingly, Chief Executive Reed Hastings noted: “It will take a while to bring the catalogs together.” That’s something of an understatement. In some countries, even Netflix’s own series are absent from Netflix, due to earlier deals being cut with local cable providers. Elsewhere, to say libraries have slim pickings is putting it mildly.
For many users, this never made any odds. Prior to Netflix showing up, people used it anyway by way of VPN software. This spoofs your location, enabling you to browse and play media ‘geolocked’ to a specific country, for example the Netflix US catalogue if you’re living in the UK. When Netflix expanded, people carried on as if nothing had happened, presumably after looking at their local catalogues and wondering if tumbleweeds were about to bob across the screen.
At one point, Netflix didn’t seem to care about VPNs. Although they were technically against the company’s terms, it was perhaps pragmatic to turn a blind eye. Netflix was still getting paid, and by extension so were the companies who owned the series people were watching. Only media executives don’t see things this way. Instead, they consider people using VPNs the new ‘home tapers’, killing the industry through stopping movie and television companies making local deals. In other words, a single Netflix catalogue is bad for business, when you can in some countries carve off the good bits and sell them to a dozen individual networks, each of which charges for access.
Of late, the most common thing I’m seeing regarding Netflix is people quitting the service, on account of no longer being able to access content they were enjoying. Their alternative, almost without exception: returning to torrenting. I wonder whether movie and television execs will ever wake up to the reality of modern media distribution. Having a service available worldwide is irrelevant if the content doesn’t go with it. And if you restrict the content, people will simply stop paying.
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