Two weeks ago at CES, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix will be available in another 130 territories, including the Philippines. We already gave Netflix a truly Filipino greeting by rejoicing via the #NetflixPHshows twitter trend and then complaining afterwards about the apparent small PH library and its incompatibility with our crappy internet. However, Netflix in the Philippines has far deeper implications than just having another streaming service available. Let's go through them:
Video On-Demand in the Philippines just got serious
Do remember that Netflix is the BIGGEST name in video on-demand streaming. And when the biggest brand decides to play in your territory, you know there's a chance it can disrupt the current market.
Here's a very, very loose analogy: remember how it was such a big deal that the Pope visited the Philippines? The whole of Manila stopped for nearly a week when the Pope visited. Classes and work were suspended, traffic routes were changed, everyone suddenly wanted to visit Luneta, and local politicians suddenly wanted to work efficiently! His visit straightened the crap out of people.
So imagine Netflix not only visiting but staying in the country. Think of how much that can change the market's behavior. I don't have figures for this but I'd at least think that the interest for VOD somehow rose. And with more interest, meant a chance for the established outfits such as iFlix, HOOQ, iWantv and ABS-CBN Mobile to expand their shares. But aside from being on the offensive in bulking-up their user base, these outfits must now also defend their current base. Surely these people who are already into VOD would like to try out the biggest VOD brand and might eventually decide to leave their current service for Netflix.
What to expect: Expect iFlix, HOOQ and the others to start aggressively selling themselves. Like probably start hyping their advantages versus Netflix (i.e. lower subscription fee, local content).
Will alliances be made or broken?
With the granddaddy of Video On-Demand services here to stay in the country, it maybe just a matter of time before the local networks start associating themselves with Netflix. Telco giants, PLDT-Smart and Globe, welcomed Netflix by assuring their subscribers that they can access Netflix via their current value-add services. In the TV network front, TV5 has a deal with iFlix to stream TV5 shows, GMA has a deal with both iFlix and HOOQ while ABS-CBN is sticking to their ABS-CBN Mobile and iWantv services. Will any of these networks break their current deals to try and reach Netflix?
What to expect: Expect the TV networks in the coming months (or years?) to try and strike a deal with Netflix. With their great expansion, Netflix is open in distributing and creating local content. For example, Netflix in partnership with Japanese network, FUJI TV, created Atelier, a jdrama about an underwear company.Can we hope for a JaDine or KathNiel Netflix show distributed worldwide in the future? Perhaps.
#NetflixEverywhere Is A Step Towards Globalization
Remember in the early 2000s how US shows used to be delayed when they air in the Philippines? I remember watching season 03 of The OC on ETC back in late 2005 even though season 03 ended in the US mid '05. Shows had to be delayed due to contract agreements between the US-network companies and the local networks, and differing time zones. The best thing networks can do now is to have the show air the same date as the US premiere. No doubt this lag in airing eventually contributed to the Filipino's patronage of pirated DVDs then, and illegal downloading and streaming now.
And with the spread of social media and global culture, it also became more important for some pinoys to illegally download or stream globally-celebrated shows to not miss out in the global conversation. Waiting for the next episode of The Walking Dead or The Vampire Diaries a day or hours after shown in the US eventually feels archaic in our time.
And this is where Video On-Demand services come in. In theory, you can watch these series at the same time, given that it is "on-demand". However, it still depends on the agreements between the show producer and the VOD services. For example, the latest episode of On The Wings Of Love is usually available in iWantv an hour after it was aired on ABS-CBN. Same day, yes but still delayed by some figure of time.
This is where Netflix comes in. Not only is Netflix a VOD service, but Netflix also creates their own content like House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None etc. What Netflix is doing is cutting the contract agreement step of syndication and just offering every single episode of their shows upfront. In other words, Netflix gives its users total freedom on how they want to consume their shows. And to sweeten the pot, most Netflix Original content were arguably the BEST shows of last year.
So the announcement of #NetflixEverywhere meant that it is the first TV/movie network to be simultaneously operating in almost all countries. In the bigger scheme of things, this is the first step towards the globalization of entertainment. People around the world can watch Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil, pummel the dregs of Hell's Kitchen AT THE SAME TIME if they want to. No more worries of being behind the global conversation. Probably, no more trips to your friendly neighborhood dibidi guy. Probably, no need to wait for someone to upload each episode on PirateBay.
What to expect: Prepare yourself in seeing more people on your social media newsfeeds watching and waiting for the next seasons of House of Cards, Daredevil or Master of None.
A Possible Change In TV Show/Movie Quality
Some Filipinos complain about the "mababaw" quality of local TV. Well, you guys might just be in luck thanks to Netflix. With their global expansion, Netflix is open in creating shows and movies that have a global flavor to them. That's why they have the world-spanning series of Sense8 or Marco Polo and movies like The Ridiculous 6. These shows may not necessarily rate highly with US critics and audiences but may be big in other markets. And if the local networks like ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5 want to get their share of the Netflix pie, they might need to change how they create and tell their stories to sell in a global scale.
What to expect: A small chance in happening but a change in the production of local TV shows into a more global format. Fewer episodes? Short storylines? Presence of story arcs? Seasonal series?
A few thoughts on my Netflix experience so far:
- Netflix recommends at least 3mbps of bandwidth connection to watch in Standard Definition. Not really the case. We've been using our 2mbps PLDT DSL connection and we've only encountered buffering mid-show twice or thrice (still waiting for that FIBR connection).
- Yes, even while I was downloading app updates and podcast episodes on a different device.
- If you don't own a smart TV but have a PS4, I suggest you download the Netflix app so youu can watch Netflix on your TV.
- Yes it's true that the Netflix PH library isn't that big. iFlix and HOOQ arguably have bigger libraries but AGAIN they don't have the Netflix Original series.
- My advice, get Netflix if you like their original content. If you're out for local PH content, you won't find them here.