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Inside Netflix: Quest for content will sweep Africa

In the second of a series of behind-the-scenes reports from Netflix studios, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers an appetite for new stories.



Netflix had been founded in 1997 to address CEO Reed Hastings’ frustration with fees for late returns of rented movies on VHS tape. A $40 fine that global video rental leader Blockbuster charged Hastings for the late return of the Apollo 13 video is regarded as one of the most expensive customer-service mistakes in business history. Within ten years, Netflix was driving Blockbuster into bankruptcy – even before the newcomer moved into streaming. It had quickly switched its business model from the traditional movie rental approach to one based on an unlimited subscription, and that proved to be ideal for the fledgling streaming team.

“You could fit all of us into one small conference room. But we had this dream of bringing it in a way that was easier, more accessible, faster for our members to connect with by using streaming,” recalled Peters.

“That was a lofty dream, but back then we sort of had humble beginnings. We were only available on the PC. That was the only place you could stream content. The kind of content we had, which was frankly quite limited at that point of time, was just licensed content, and we were only available in the United States.”

But, gradually, more content was added. More devices were added. Within two years, the streaming business was ready to expand internationally.

“We launched first in Canada and then in Latin America and then moved to Europe in 2012 in the UK and Ireland and expanded from there until about three years ago. We actually launched in one day 130 countries, making us available in 190 countries around the world. While we were expanding internationally, we were also growing our capabilities as a content producer from six years ago when we launched, first, House of Cards, to today where we are producing content, shows and movies, around the world in over 30 countries.”

Peters headed up international development at Netflix before taking his current role. In that capacity, he oversaw its global roll-out, including the day of the streaming big bang, 16 January 2016, when it went fully global, and also arrived in South Africa. That global sensibility today helps drives his product focus.

“We have more than 139 million members around the world. The majority of those members are from outside the United States, and that ratio is going to get bigger and bigger in the years to come. And you see that shift also in the kind of original programming that we are doing. You’ll see more of these shows from around the world.”

Click here to read about what Netflix means to pay-TV providers.


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