Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), which was already known to be planning a UK launch in its global expansion, has press-released an “early 2012″ launch date for the UK and Ireland.
The news, confirming the continued commitment to a fast-paced international expansion of its streaming business, comes ahead of its quarterly earnings report due after U.S. markets close Monday afternoon.
That new public certainty suggests the movie service has secured amongst the final deals necessary to go live.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, under fire for mismanaging the split between DVD and streaming in the U.S., is on the record saying the company will not expand its DVD movie rental business. Instead, its international expansion is aimed at PCs, smartphones, tablets and the growing number of connected devices — notably, the internet-enabled TVs that consumers are now buying with ubiquitous access for “one low monthly subscription price”.
Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) has the same aim. But Netflix will pose a challenge to Amazon’s Lovefilm, whose online catalogue is poor compared with its DVD line-up. Amazon will likely need to fully rebrand Lovefilm under Amazon by next spring to reach for the same goal. UK online movie services currently offer limited choice compared with DVDs.
Something which could shake up the UK TV market – Netflix’s announcement makes clear it will offer “unlimited TV shows and films streaming”. Previously, there might have been a question mark over the TV aspect, in to which Netflix has expanded in the U.S. from its history as a movie provider.
There, Netflix is now a significantly influential TV service, licensing network content for redistribution, signing content exclusively and even commissioning original content. Netflix usually doesn’t contract for current-season programming, opting instead for full past seasons of current shows or library shows.
Hulu has failed to gain any content for use in the UK despite three years of trying. Its first international effort is Hulu Japan, launched in September.
The UK does not have an equivalent Netflix operator – SeeSaw is in turmoil. After broadcasters’ proposed Project Kangaroo VOD venture was struck off by competition regulars, the market has settled down to see them offer individual, badged VOD catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITV (LSE: ITV) Player, 4oD, Demand Five and S4/Clic, through which they can sell their own ads. ITV in particular is reluctant to syndicate its shows to aggregators. In other words, Netflix will have its work cut out on TV but could prove disruptive.
As well as the U.S. and now Canada, Netflix recently launched in 43 Latin America countries and the Caribbean.