The biggest success in the world of streaming entertainment is now poised to expand even further. Netflix, the world’s largest subscription service, will soon be offering its programming in six European nations, including Germany and France. The company established a presence in Canada back in 2010 and followed that up with expansions into Latin America, Scandinavia, Britain, and the Netherlands. But until now, much of Europe has remained untouched. Recently though, the company announced its intention to move into France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The move seems obvious, but the timing may just be now or never.
Netflix must act before its direct competitors Amazon Prime and HBO Go beat them to it. Currently, HBO Go competes with Netflix in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. Amazon Prime Instant Video is available in Britain and Germany.
But the move comes with several public relations and consumer communication hurdles. Sure, Europeans are comfortable with pay TV, in many cases even more comfortable than Americans. But the regulations across the pond are much different than they are in the U.S.
Netflix will have to format its business within Europe’s rules, developed to make it difficult to challenge domestic media. And when it gets over these hurdles, it will have to maximize its impact by crafting selection libraries that will appeal to the local market.
But Netflix management has already learned some hard lessons about consumer PR. Remember the ill advised attempt to separate the streaming and mailed rental services – and expect customers to pay for both? After massive consumer uproar, Netflix managed a quick course correction. Now, instead of being known for that gaffe, it is known for its standout programming like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
Time will tell if Netflix can parlay that success into making a cultural – and marketplace – impact in continental Europe. Critics of the move are already saying shows such as House of Cards won’t play well – if at all – in some markets. But that will not prevent the company from creating shows for markets where its American hits can’t succeed.
Do that, and Netflix will have the leverage and market foothold it needs to create a foundation for success in these new markets and beyond.