How has Netflix evolved in the last few years?
Now we are a very different company now from when we launched our streaming service in 2010, or even from when we launched in the UK in 2012. Back then we offered primarily other people’s movies and TV shows. It was stuff you could have already seen somewhere else, it was pretty new seasons of current on-air TV shows.
We have really become a network now and we are like a TV channel but we are entirely on demand and we think that is the way people want to watch TV. We differentiate like other channels do with programming and having exclusive programming, so we have significantly expanded what we call Netflix original programming over the past two or three years.
Some of Netflix’s content is not available in the Middle East? Is there a plan to bring it here?
We are working towards a global service that has the same programming everywhere and it’s going to take us a few more years to get to that ultimate end state. Content rights are sold region by region, country by country, so we have been buying more and more global rights. A lot of what you see here is what we have global rights to and then you might see some titles where we were able to put together a patchwork of rights to almost get to global.
Do you plan to tailor content for the region as well? Does all of your content have Arabic subtitles?
Yes, anything that is available here has Arabic subtitles. Arabic is one of the few languages that we added when we launched here. We launched in 130 countries [in January] and we added four languages at the same time, understanding that the Arab world would be a good opportunity for Netflix, in addition to Chinese and Korean. The reason that we believe there will be high levels of interest for Netflix in this region is based on what we have seen before: we look at the quality of the broadband internet, and whether people can afford a service like Netflix.
What plans and prices can users expect for a Netflix subscription in the Middle East?
It starts at $7.99 and goes up to $11.99 per month and each option gives access to all of the programming. You can stream on one device in SD for $7.99. With the middle plan you can stream two devices at a time at HD, and with the top plan you can stream four devices at the same time, and if you have a 4K TV it will show up in 4K. We are the only provider with 4K programming here in the UAE today and many parts of the world.
Other VoD services are in the MENA market already. Is this an issue and how do you plan to differentiate?
When we look at the future of TV we think that internet TV really is the future. Ultimately, people are going to decide what to watch based on the programmes that are available to them. The content or programming titles are what makes a difference, so you are going to choose to watch a certain provider based on the programmes they have available. We think that people will be subscribing to multiple services to fill out their entertainment options. We’ll be growing our offering. We are adding a significant amount of new original programming this year. We will also be continuing to licence other people’s programmes too and making that available. It’s a growing offering — it’s a growing exclusive offering.