Reed Hastings on Netflix's Plans for Pan-European Releases, Local Productions

Reed Hastings Netflix - H 2015
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Reed Hastings Netflix - H 2015

The CEO of the streaming giant spoke at Berlin's Media Convention event.

Instead of waiting for Europe to create a single digital market, Netflix will do it itself.

The European Commission will this week unveil proposals aimed at changing European law to make it possible for all consumers across the continent to buy and watch content across national borders.

But Netflix, which made a big push into several European markets last year, isn’t waiting for the politicians to work out the details. CEO Reed Hastings said the company is already moving to tear down national restrictions for its content.

"For the bulk of our content, we are going to try and do all pan-European or global deals,” Hastings told a crowd at the Media Conventions conference in Berlin on Tuesday. “We can’t wait for the commission, they may or may not pass rules. … We are going to try and solve the problem [of cross-border demand] commercially.”  

Hastings said future deals for Netflix content would be aimed at avoiding the current situation, where certain series and films available on one of the company’s national services are not available elsewhere. He cited the case of House of Cards, the first two seasons of which are not available to Netflix subscribers in Germany because the rights were sold off, before Netflix had a German operation, to 21st Century Fox’s German pay TV service Sky.

Analysts agree that international expansion is key for Netflix if it is to hit its growth targets. At its last quarterly filing, Netflix reported that, of its nearly 60 million streaming subscribers worldwide, nearly 20 million are outside the U.S.

Part of Hastings’ global strategy has been to boost production of original series — such as Marco Polo — that clearly target the international market with prominent non-U.S. actors and storylines. The company has also got into the business of foreign-language series, greenlighting a French political drama and a Spanish-language comedy set in the world of professional soccer.

Hastings said Netflix was looking for a suitable German-language project to debut in Europe's largest TV market. "But we haven’t found one yet," he said.

Asked about the company’s approach when it comes to backing international series, Hastings said, much like in the U.S., Netflix would be looking to produce a broad range of genres.

“We want all our shows to be recognizable as Netflix content but we don’t want them to have any specific style,” he said. “Unlike a traditional linear network that has to focus on a specific demographic, we can cast a wide net; we can be incredibly broad.”

Twitter: @scottroxborough