From the day that Netflix launched their streaming video service here in Canada back in late September, the complaint has been the same, and now it’s getting louder. The selection of titles is too limited and not current enough, consumers say, and many have walked away after their free one-month trial.
Despite recent breathless announcements to the contrary, the Netflix selection in Canada is rather anemic compared to the offering south of the border. But what consumers don’t understand is the complicated process to bring titles to their screens. Licensing agreements must be signed between Netflix and rights holders in Canada, and often these rights holders are different companies than in the US. So it’s not a simple process to offer the same selection to customers across North America. If you’re a customer of eMusic or Apple’s iTunes Store, you already know this.
Despite Netflix’s efforts to communicate this to their customer base, the message seems not to be getting through. In a blog post dated December 13, Netflix VP of Content Acquisition Kelly Merryman announces new content updates for Canada, and in the comments that follow we hear the same litany of complaints about the absence of the latest movies and TV shows.
The service does have its defenders, though, and some rather strangely lay the blame at the government’s door: “Canadian laws are outdated and are making it difficult for Netflix to expand as much as in the US,” says one commenter. “I am not sure Netflix can fight the government on releasing name brand titles that most customers want,” says another. On an earlier similar blog post from October, another commenter opines, “Blame your government for the lack of titles in Canada. It’s not Netflix’s fault.” What exactly are these commenters referring to, I wonder?
I tried to reach someone at Netflix for comment, but I’m not sure they actually have a physical office in Canada, or anyone working for them who actually lives here. On their main corporate site, all their job postings are for the US only. In any case, I did not receive a reply.
Ironically, Canadian consumers’ wish for their offering to match that of the American audience may soon become reality, but not in the way that they think. According to a recent story, the original deals signed by Netflix with American content providers are due for renewal soon and the studios and distributors will be playing hardball. Many feel that Netflix got a bargain the first time around, and licensing fees could skyrocket, which means that some content deals will simply not be renewed.
Let’s hope that Netflix can attract enough customers in Canada to be able to afford to sign what might turn out to be expensive licensing deals, on both sides of the border.
What do you think? Have you tried Netflix yet?
P.S. For what it’s worth, I’m a fan. In fact, in the new year, I plan on introducing a regular feature highlighting the best that Netflix has to offer, whether that might be a British TV series, an American indie film, a European “arthouse” title or just some overlooked recent Hollywood fare. There are lots of great things available right now, and that’s only going to get better. The fact that I can watch on my television, laptop or even my iPhone is an added bonus.