Netflix in Canada: friend or foe?

One thing has been clear since the beginning of this year’s festival: the arrival of Netflix in Canada is a major concern for many Canadian producers and broadcasters.

It is consequently unsurprising that the session In conversation with Ted Sarandos: The Netflix Effect in Canada, was one of the most popular – there was actually a line up in front of the Van Horne room where the session was to be held!

The interviewer Scott Cuthbertson started off with the question that is on many lips here in Banff:  “Are you guys really the devil incarnate?”

Ted Sarandos, Chief of Content for Netflix, smiled:  “We know our arrival has scared a lot of people in the Canadian industry… But the truth is, we are not spinning when we say that we are complimentary to traditional media.  In the US, paid subscriptions to cable have actually increased since our arrival on the market!  So if we are the most threatening cable-cutting device, cable companies should be rejoicing right now…

Asked about the limit of their catalogue, Sarandos explained that many people are unaware of Netflix’s window: “Our window is 4 to 6 months after DVD – we are more in the pay TV space.  People who are release-centric will look for another experience. Maybe it’s not the newest movies, but people discover amazing less-known stuff.

Surprisingly enough, television series account for over 60% of viewed content on Netflix.  “The ‘cinematization’ of television has changed how audiences watch series, and we provide instant access to a ton of great TV programming people can watch ‘marathon-style’.”

When asked point blank why Netflix shouldn’t contribute to the industry and/or be regulated as a broadcaster, Ted Sarandos was ready: “Three reasons:  first, we DO make a significant contribution to the industry by licensing content.  Secondly, broadcasters who use OTT services in Canada aren’t regulated either; and finally, we don’t enjoy any of the protection the broadcasters do.”

Later that same day, Sarandos accepted the Award of Excellence in Innovation at the Interactive Rockies.  On stage, he thanked the Festival and shared what he considered to be Netflix’s biggest victory in the last few years:  “We now account for the largest percentage of traffic on the net… beating for the first time our main competitor, BitTorrent.  People tend to forget that we all have a common foe, which is piracy.

And that’s something no one will argue with.

Ted Sarandos at the Interactive Rockies. (All Rights Reserved, Achilles Media)

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