In the next few weeks, or months at most, local Netflix users will be able to pay for the service in rand rather than US dollars, and the company is exploring various partnerships with local telcos both to make it mitigate the cost of the data required to use the service, and so that subscribers can pay for the service through their mobile operator. Perhaps even better news is that, if you’re the sort of Netflixer who shares your account with family or friends, the company gives you its blessing to keep doing so.
Yann Lafargue, manager of technology and corporate communications for Netflix’s EMEA operations, says when it comes to users sharing their password with others it’s a good way to get new users “familiar with the service” and it tends to be “self-regulating” in terms of abuse.
“If you share your password with all your friends you won’t be able to watch content at the same time as they are once you’ve hit your screen allowance, and you’ll probably change your password pretty soon,” Lafargue says.
Netflix offers three tiers of the service in South Africa. The cheapest allows for SD content on a single screen, the mid-tier allows for two simultaneous streams in HD, while the top tier allows for up to four concurrent streams in 4K.
“Also, other users will mess with your algorithm and the recommendations you get,” Lafargue says, adding that many users value the quality of the suggestions they get and don’t want that mucked about with.
The amount of content offered in SA launch has tripled since the service launched in 2016, and Lafargue says Netflix is adding content almost daily. In addition to its online and app offerings, set-top boxes like Kwesé also offer the service. Kwesé already offers pricing in rand, and Lafargue says the service absorbs any currency fluctuations to keep the fee constant.
On the topic of partnerships, Lafargue says Netflix is approaching both telecoms players and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to find ways to make the data demands of the service more manageable for local consumers. “What we see in Europe and the US is that more and more operators are bringing zero-rating to subscription services,” Lafargue says. For the SA market, the same thing following is “not an if, but a when”.
He says the company welcomes competition from the likes of Showmax and Amazon, because it “helps us to educate users about the benefits of streaming”.
Of course, the big advantage Netflix has over its rivals is its massive head start in the original content game. Two years ago the company released 30 pieces of original content in the form of movies, series and documentaries. This year it’s releasing 400 originals and next year that’ll grow to 650. Interestingly, it’s international business is now bigger than its US operation, and it expects most new acquisitions to come from outside its home market.
The company spent $6bn this year on content acquisition and creation (with 25% on creation).. Next year the company will spend $7-8bn on licensing and original content, with the share spent on original content set to grow and include 80 feature films or documentaries. “We’re becoming the biggest studio in the world,” Lafargue says.