This week, Netflix, the popular American multinational subscription video on demand (SVoD) internet streaming media service provider announced that it’s service has gone live globally. Kenya is among 130 countries that can now access internet streaming TV from Netflix. In Kenya, Netflix is now available via their official website: https://www.netflix.com/ke/ which means that for one monthly price Kenyan consumers can sign up to enjoy Netflix original series as well as its huge catalog of licensed TV shows and movies simultaneously with the rest of the world. As of October 2015, Netflix had 69.17 million subscribers globally, including more than 43 million in the United States of America.
Previously, they have been discussions about the intellectual property (IP) dimension of video streaming services such as Netflix and in particular the copyright issue of circumvention of geo-locking through the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). With regard to VPNs, it is well known that users have been accessing Netflix from Kenya and elsewhere using these digital connections to mask their location and appear as if they are accessing Netflix from the US. This is an ongoing problem for Netflix and its content partners due to specific content agreements in place that do not allow exploitation of rights in licensed content outside of a particular territory.
Another interesting topic brought about by Netflix going global is the question of piracy. The narrative from supporters of Netflix is something along the lines of Netflix’s service and unique business model address both the distribution and pricing concerns which are the main reasons for copyright piracy. In the case of foreign copyright works, this narrative may play out as expected since pirated CDs and DVDs sold for as little as Kshs 50 a piece have long deprived the legitimate rights holders of any royalties. Perhaps with Netflix in Kenya, foreign right holders may finally recoup some of these lost revenues from Netflix through subscriptions paid by Kenyan consumers.
Amidst all the hype and excitement over Netflix in Kenya, Kenyan content creators will be hoping that Netflix’s newly found clout as a global internet TV network will not work against them when negotiating content acquisition deals. However, just as is the case for consumers, Netflix’s entry is expected to bring increased competition in the pay-tv market with dominant players such as Multichoice and StarTimes being forced to review their subscription prices and content licensing models.
With Netflix’s arrival, the opportunity for Kenyan content owners and producers to have their high quality Kenyan content available in 130 countries is definitely a game-changer potentially leading not only to increased revenues but ultimately also supporting the country’s social development and economic agenda through the creation of jobs especially in the area of content development.