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Netflix: No Habla Español (in the US)

Written by Alfredo C. on . Posted in Marketing, Technology

Netflix, a vast catalogue of movies and TV shows

Netflix, a vast catalogue of movies and TV shows

Hulu and Amazon both carry a wide catalogue of productions, but neither offer their content outside of the U.S (don’t bother trying to open an account outside of the U.S., because you’ll get an unpleasant “content not available in your country” warning, ugh). On the other hand, both Netflix and Apple (iTunes) operate outside of the U.S., and for users in Latin America this means access to some Spanish dubbed or subtitled content. However, Netflix, which for many has the most successful, widely-used and competitively-priced model, is allowing a great opportunity within the U.S. Hispanic Market to pass them by. How is it possible that a movie is available in Mexico and Chile (just to name two active markets) as well as in the U.S., but it is only available in Spanish in the first two countries? One would think this isn’t due to technological limitations since subtitles are an option on most streaming players, nor it is due to a lack of translation (dubbing or subtitles) because audiences in Latin America are already consuming the same content with translations. Could this phenomenon then be explained by licensing issues and bureaucratic hurdles?

IP’s: if you aren’t in your country, too bad.

There is another point worth mentioning with Netflix. It doesn’t matter if your account was created in your country of residence, the same access will be granted to you anywhere that Netflix has operations. However, let’s say you opened an account in Costa Rica and are vacationing in Panama. You have access to the catalogue of the previous country, but wait, what?! I can’t resume watching that series I started before my trip? Why not? Or suppose a title is licensed in the U.S. and you are using the account you opened in Mexico while you are physically in the US. Legally you can access the content, but then what happened with your settings for Spanish-language subtitles? Ah, IPs, the numbers which identify a user’s location in or outside of his country. It makes sense for certain issues dealing with protection of privacy, but insisting on restricting access to exclusive content by merely identifying that you are outside of the original zone is a questionable practice. If a piece of content is licensed exclusively to one country, which is the country of the original user, why doesn’t the service allow the user to view the content, regardless of their physical location, if they are authenticated and are paying for the service?

Piracy, another excuse

I think this is the most significant excuse. However, beyond the licensing fees that must be payed, today it seems that this barrier to consumption is a little archaic. If a subscriber pays and agrees to the terms and conditions in their zone, how is it that they move and everything changes? What sense is there in granting access to the platform in any location under your username and password? If this is because of the possibility of some ill-intentioned user taking advantage of the situation to illegally reproduce the content, it might be more useful to comb the web for the hundreds of sites that teach users how to go around these types of geo-restrictions. That seems ridiculous. Wouldn’t it be better (and more profitable) to make these options available as opposed to limiting them? Subscribers are not only looking for a variety of content but also the possibility to access this content in more than one language; for example, second and third generation Hispanics who want to get a better understanding of their native tongue. The multicultural component is also there, being able to access rich media without geographic and linguistic barriers. The US Hispanic audience is a major consumer of digital media, and most studies you’ll find detail the constant increase in this activity by Hispanics.

Has the model become obsolete?

I would love to see a report that projected the estimated number of users this type of service would add if only Spanish-language subtitles were made available. From an operational standpoint it may only involve uploading a text file with the script at a negligible cost. If this is correct, we would surely see thousands of new clients and potential clients who spend lots of time on family entertainment. Technology is always open to being fooled. However, the foolery should not come from the party that creates and brings technology to its clients, since more clients and more options also translate to more business opportunities. Taking a closer look at this issue, you have to ask yourself if the model of access to streaming services, totally legal and by subscription, is breaking barriers of what was formerly guaranteed success, the paradigm of interconnectivity and globalization vs limitation and geographic exclusion.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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Alfredo C.

Born in Havana, Cuba. Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a Master’s degree in Web Design and Development.

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