Irish actress, Sarah Bolger (In America, The Tudors), pictured at the launch of the Netflix Film and TV subscription service in Ireland. Irish film and TV fans in Ireland can now subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch unlimited films and TV programmes for the low monthly price of Û6.99.
Pic. Robbie Reynolds/CPR
With the launch of Netflix in Ireland, Brian Lloyd was at the launch and spoke to Reed Hastings, CEO and Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer.
For those who don’t know, Netflix is an Internet-based streaming service for film and TV. Working with a wide range of distributors and studios – such as Momentum Pictures, MGM and more – Netflix has a dynamic library that features ‘10,000 hours of content and rising’, according to Neil Hunt.
The service is a month-to-month subscription of €6.99, for which you receive unlimited viewing of all content. The service doesn’t feature any contract and can be cancelled immediately. ‘We make it as easy as possible for people to start using it. You just click, fill out your details and you’re ready. There’s no contract, you can stop using it and cancel right away without any fines or fees.’
CEO Reed Hastings spoke at length about the variety of platforms Netflix is available on – including XboxLive, PS3, PC, iPads and AppleTV. ‘I really believe in Internet TV, with click-and-watch capability. And I think, in the future, it’s going to be as common as mobile phones. It’s becoming that way, already. Twenty years ago, the idea of mobile phones being so popular was unheard of, and now we can’t think without them. I feel it’s the same with Internet TV,’ says Hastings. The same goes for broadband capability, which Netflix is heavily reliant on. ‘There’s rural areas in the US and Canada, and in those areas, broadband and fibre-optic cables are reaching there. It’s like telegraph wires, when the demand is there, the capability will be there.’
Netflix has already made waves in the US market and given new life to films that either performed poorly in the box office or were overlooked by cinema audiences. Most recently, Netflix has moved into original content – such as Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards and a new series of Arrested Development. ‘It depends on how succesful House of Cards is. If it’s a big hit, we’ll see about making more. We’re growing steadily and it’s a great direction for us.’ He also mentions that the service isn’t necessarily schewed towards television or film. ‘We try to get a lot of both. We have a bias towards good content. Good content is what people want, so it’s in the eye of the beholder.’ As mentioned, Netflix has a wide variety of films in their library, but what of Irish films in particular? ‘We have Ondine and Secret of Kells coming on in a couple of months, the content available from Ireland comes from independent distributors and doesn’t get a wide distribution, aside from the occasional films like Once. But interestingly, films like Ondine and Secret of Kells that were in theatres for a very limited run in the US, people watched millions of hours of films like that using Netflix. So, in a way, they discovered independent films through services like Netflix that they may have missed or been unable to see in theatres.’
There is a charge that because a service like Netflix being so cheap and accessible, does it devalue the content itself? And what of piracy? ‘We want to make it the best value possible for consumers. If you compare it to piracy, it’s better value. There’s better quality with streaming, we’re integrating into all the services (XboxLive, SamsungHDTV), you don’t have to worry about viruses or downloads, etc. – all the major companies see Netflix as their best shot to confront piracy.’
Netflix are offering a free one-month trial in Ireland and say they’re here for the long haul. ‘There’s no question that InternetTV that is going to be very successful and very popular in Ireland. We’re patient, we want to build a fanbase that will expand from there… we want to start with a small, loyal customer base and go from there. We’re not setting targets that we want to reach, we just want to make sure that people who use it will love it and want to keep using it.’