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10 things we learnt at Netflix South Africa event

Netflix has been available in South Africa since January 2016, as part of a wider expansion on the part of the service. So we were pleasantly surprised when the company’s EMEA executives decided to fly down for a local media roundtable event, signalling the start of a bigger push.

So what did we learn at the event then? From South African content to most popular shows in the market, here’s what we found out.

South Africa’s library has apparently tripled

When Netflix launched locally back in 2016, it had a sparse library, to be fair. But Yenia Zaba, the firm’s manager for European media relations, told journalists that this was done as part of a drive to learn what people want.

“When we launch in a country, we launch with a very basic catalogue, to see what people are actually watching… Because it makes zero sense to buy everything that’s available in that market…” Zaba explained.

“I can tell you that today, compared to a year and a half ago, the catalogue has tripled in size. And we’re literally adding shows on a daily basis.”

South Africa has some content that the US version lacks

The grass isn’t completely greener on the other side, the firm claims. In fact, the company says the South African library has a few shows that the US catalogue lacks.

“…Star Trek, Designated Survivor, Better Call Saul… all those shows are available here, but not in the US,” Yann Lafargue, manager for tech and corporate communications in the EMEA, told journalists.

Most popular TV shows on SA Netflix?

So, what are the top TV shows in South Africa? Zaba has the answer.

“It’s Mindhunter, it was just released. Narcos is very very big here, Star Trek is very big here and Marvel shows are indeed quite big here. As well as Designated Survivor and Shooter,” the representative says, adding that South Africans enjoy their action-driven shows.

Don’t expect HDR on cheaper plans yet

Netflix is making a huge play in 4K content right now, but the company is pushing particularly hard for HDR.

“…HDR is the technology where we’re the most bullish, because it’s so life-like…” Lafargue explained. Can we expect the tech to filter down to cheaper price plans soon?

“No… because it’s a strong investment, it’s way more expensive… it’s a real premium to do it…” the executive told Memeburn in a separate interview. Lafargue says Netflix might change this “at some point” but for now, HDR was staying at the top-end.

They’re speaking to South African producers

Of course, local content is always king and the firm’s representatives told media that it was indeed having discussions in South Africa.

“We have a pretty strong content team that’s travelling to every individual country to talk to local producers. I don’t know how far the negotiations are going right now, but I do know that we’re talking to South African producers,” Zaba said.

Are they fine with password sharing?

What is the company’s policy on password/account sharing then?

“It’s good because it’s free advertising. We don’t have a really strong stance against it. It’s self-regulating…” Lafargue explained, citing screen restrictions as a regulating factor. However, the executive adds that as long as it remains within the “family circle”, they’re okay with it.

The stance on region-hopping

Many Netflix enthusiasts took to using DNS and VPN tools to circumvent geographic restrictions, enabling them to view Netflix content for other regions. Lafargue elaborates on the streaming service’s take on the practice.

“It was always going against the terms and conditions. But what happened is recently… there are industry standards [for fighting against circumvention – ed] and it just got better,” the executive said. “It’s a bit of a whack a mole game.”

Lafargue adds they have to prove to studios that they’re making an effort to enforce licensing agreements.

Watching leaked content? You might be giving yourself away

The company also touched on the topic of leaked content, following the leaking of ten episodes of Orange is The New Black. The firm said it could track users who potentially watched episodes before official release. The solution isn’t as nefarious as you might think either.

“…And we had ways to track it. Because there were ten episodes (leaked). If we see that the people directly jump to episode 11, we know that basically, they’ve seen it on the dark web (sic),” Lafargue elaborated.

House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black?

So why doesn’t Netflix have its own rights to the above-mentioned shows in South Africa?

“There are two shows that are legacy shows, House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, where basically we didn’t have the (local) rights at that time,” Lafargue says, because the company wasn’t in those markets at the time.

“We weren’t even thinking that in the short or medium or long term, that we’ll be in Japan or South Africa…” he continued, saying that Netflix was now trying to buy the rights back for new seasons in markets where they didn’t have the rights.

Thoughts on move to thumbs up/down rating system

Subscribers and social media users criticised Netflix for the move from a star rating system to a thumbs up/down and match percentage system.

Lafargue told Memeburn that there was a 200% increase in user engagement when they tested the feature.

“No one really gets that even the star system was based on your personal profile. So, to give you an idea for instance, for The Crown, it could’ve been five stars for you but three stars for me,” he noted.

“So what we tried to do with the thumbs up and down… It’s more about asking a simple question: ‘did you enjoy it?'”

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings over seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More

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