Netflix Content Chief: BBC Holds Back Kids Shows Licenses in U.K.

 Netflix

LONDON -- Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos has criticized the BBC for not offering licenses for its U.K. children's TV shows to streaming video services in Britain for up to five years.

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That means that Netflix's U.K. service must offer more U.S. shows, while the British public broadcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, loses out on additional revenue, he told the Guardian.

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BBC Worldwide does not hold back licensing rights outside the U.K., so Netflix has deals with the company in other markets, such as the U.S. and Latin America. Popular BBC kids shows include Shaun the Sheep and In the Night Garden. But in the U.K., the BBC is protecting its own kids channels.

Sarandos suggested that the U.K. approach was anticompetitive and could threaten the global relationship between the two companies.

"We could pay a lot of money to license that programming, and they could make more programming and make the BBC a better public service product," Sarandos said. "What is amazing is we have the ability to give an even larger global footprint to BBC content, but I don't want to sit behind that big blackout window."

Sarandos argued that this approach is short-sighted. "It is a huge mistake -- kids' brands are very short-life cycles, and I'm not willing to pay anything for those things five years later," he explained. "The best commercial decision possible is to license content while it has a shelf life."

Added the Netflix executive: "The money I [would] be spending in the U.K. on homegrown product I have to spend on U.S. imports, because they are not making that content, the more attractive programming, available in the current windows. … We are a global product, so I want the same windows in the U.K. as I have in the U.S., Brazil and the Nordics."

BBC Worldwide defended its windowing approach. "BBC Worldwide has a long-standing and collaborative relationship with Netflix, which we look forward to continuing," said a spokesman. "And, while the BBC's windowing policy means that most children's programming remains available to U.K.-license-fee payers through the CBeebies and CBBC channels ahead of any commercial video-on-demand services, we have provided Netflix with such popular series as Charlie & Lola, MI High and The Sarah Jane Adventures."

Sarandos told the Guardian that he does respect the BBC brand and its global appeal despite his U.K. kids shows windowing concerns. "What I love about BBC is that it is closer to what we are trying to do -- they've created a real global brand."

Netflix launched in the U.K. and Ireland early last year and crossed the 1-million-subscriber milestone in the summer. 

It hasn't updated its subscriber count since, but is believed to have around 2 million-plus subs in the U.K. and Ireland.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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