When Netflix recently announced it was going to be available in 130 new countries, there was one gigantic hole in that list:
Appearing on stage at the DLD Conference in Munich, Germany today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings expressed hope that the company is moving toward a launch in that country and is optimistic that talks with Chinese regulators are progressing. But he also declined to put any kind of firm timetable on those plans.
Hastings noted that China’s market is massive, but the rules for entrance are complicated. He pointed toward the six years Apple spent negotiating with China’s political and telecom leaders before it was able to start selling the first iPhone in that country.
“We take away from that a great sense of patients,” Hastings said. “It may be soon that we have a license in China. It may take several years. So we’re going to be patient.”
Netflix is now available in 160 countries and is gradually shifting toward focusing on its own original content. Hastings said that content is proving to be a big draw across borders, no matter where it originates. And he believe that will eventually be an advantage in China where he joked that many bloggers believes “House of Cards” is a documentary about the U.S. government.
In fact, according to one study, more than 20 million people in China already access Netflix via VPN services that overcome geoblocking. Though Netflix said recently it plans to crackdown on VPN services.
Still, Hastings seemed to hint that Netflix may have a breakthrough in China sooner, rather than later. He pointed out that iTunes announced last September that it was finally able to start selling movies in China. And in December, Disney partnered with China’s Alibaba to launch a streaming service in that country.
The biggest question over time is whether these other streaming and video services gain too big of a foothold before Netflix officially enters. As Netflix’s valuation grows, so do expectations for subscriber growth. Cracking the massive Chinese market would like be transformative for Netflix’s scale.
With more than 25 million members in the United States, Canada and Latin America, Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] is the world’s leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For US$7.99 a month, Netflix members … read more »
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