Netflix and the EU Content Regulation

Earlier this year we wrote a blog post about Netflix’ announcement of launching their streaming services in an additional 130 countries. This basically meant that all of a sudden new audiences could enjoy popular shows such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards

But then… In came the European Union…  Around the end of May, the European Commission recommended that on-demand and video streaming services be required to reserve 20% of their catalogs for European content. This ‘move’ is supposed to support local arts and entertainment.

As you can imagine, Netflix wasn’t all too thrilled about this news. A Netflix spokesman said that whilst the company “appreciates the Commission’s objective to have EU production flourish, …the proposed measures won’t actually achieve that.

Of course critics have weighed in on both sides of the debate, talking about protectionism and free trade, yet no one seems to be answering one important question: Will this change the relationship between you and your beloved Netflix account..?

Nee, thou shalt not fear, dear fellow couch potatoes! In this blog post you can read more about the new proposal and what this might mean for you.

So who’s actually behind this EU Imposed Content Regulation?

Representatives from various EU countries supported the Content Regulation. However, and not very surprisingly, the Spanish and French governments were the main activists. Both countries have complained about the supposed influence of the English language on their culture and national arts.

Sounds a bit 'cry baby' to us, but the complaints aren't new! Already back in 1993, France and Spain both passed protectionist measures to boost their local entertainment industries and protect them against the "evil" American media. France had radio stations devote 40% of their airtime to actual French songs, whilst Spain forced restrictions upon the projection of American movies. They argued that laws as such were the only way to preserve the true European cultural identity. 

Now that people are actually starting to move away from cinema and over to the online content, it seems that Europe thinks that new regulations should be put into place. The move is also in line with other EU decisions forcing Internet companies to change which content is displayed in Europe (smells like censor ship).

All stream/watch/view-on-demand services will be held to the quota, meaning Netflix will also be joined by its rivals Amazon and iTunes. And while all three currently surpass the 20% benchmark, there are also vague measures requiring the companies to make financial contributions aiding European film and TV production (yeh ok, that stinks).

Netflix simply points to the EU projects it already has to show that regulation is unnecessary. For example Marseille, a French-language series, began streaming this spring and The Crown, a drama series about Queen Elizabeth II, will be released this fall. Netflix says it also supports some Italian, Spanish, and German productions in the works.

Other critics of the regulation say the market/demand should decide what gets streamed, and not some bureaucrats from behind their desks in Brussels. They also point out that less successful streaming companies are likely to buy cheap, low-quality content to meet the quota. If so, wouldn’t that then undermine the actual proposal that’s supposed to bring out the best in EU cultural production?!

Will the EU Affect Your Netflix Happy Time?

It kind of depends on where you watch your Netflix from. Currently, Netflix offers different libraries of content to different countries. This means that when you travel with Netflix or change your IP address with ChillGlobal and access Netflix “from a different country”, you might find something new that you wouldn’t be able to view from your home country. Meaning that European Netflix subscribers are likely the only ones to be impacted.

Right now Netflix just barely hits the required 20% European content benchmark. However, the proposal could affect 

the future content. Because for every 4 hours of non-local content that Netflix offers its European customers, they’ll be forced to add an additional hour of European content. And whilst they could also chose to cut old content in order to maintain the required ratio, that would cause European consumers to lose out.

That’s all for now! We’ll make sure to keep you updated with the soap opera that’s called Netflix...


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