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Netflix lands in Spain

Online streaming content provider began offering its service at midnight last night

The US firm is hoping to reach a third of Spanish households within the next seven years

Netflix
From left to right: Will Arnett, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Taylor Schilling, Daryl Hannah, Kyrsten Ritter and Steven DeKnight, at the Netflix presentation in Madrid on Tuesday.

“We’re very excited to introduce Netflix in Spain,” began Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of the online content provider, which has revolutionized the world of television.

The press conference was held to mark the beginning of Netflix service in Spain, which officially began at the stroke of midnight on Monday night.

Until just a few months ago, there were still many doubts whether Spanish consumers would join the company’s growing list of global clients.

Until just a few months ago, there were doubts whether Spanish consumers would join the company’s growing list of global clients

One of the unresolved issues was the content of the catalogue the streaming video service would be offering clients in Spain.

In the end, Netflix will be showcasing original television series as its main asset, including the first two seasons of political drama House of Cards and season one of prison-based dramedy Orange Is the New Black. The newest episodes, however, will continue to be aired first on Spanish cable platform Movistar+.

Some of the titles that Spanish viewers will have access to for the first time include Daredevil, Bloodline, Narcos, Sense8, Grace and Frankie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Marco Polo, besides documentaries such as Virunga or Mission Blue and Netflix’s first original feature-length production, Beasts of No Nation.

A few nationally produced series are also being included, such as Gran Hotel, Velvet, Allí abajo or El Ministerio del Tiempo.

All original content in a different language will offer viewers the option of the original version with subtitles or dubbed in Spanish.

Some of the titles Spanish viewers will see for the first time include Daredevil, Bloodline, Narcos, Grace and Frankie, and Sense8

Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said at the press conference that the company is betting strongly on its own productions. He unveiled that Netflix is already in talks with Spanish producers to begin working on Spain-made shows. Both he and Hastings said that the Netflix catalogue in Spain will expand gradually, and that they hope to see the number of movies and series double within a year.

Netflix is available in Spain through three subscription packages, ranging from €7.99 to €11.99 a month, with a free one-month trial.

“Many people are not familiar with Netflix or with online TV, that’s why it’s free for a month, so anybody can try it and see what it’s like,” said Hastings.

The company CEO said their goal is to reach a third of Spanish households within the next seven years. But Netflix has landed in a segment where other companies, such as Movistar+ (a new platform resulting from the Spanish telecoms giant buying out competitor Canal+) have already found a niche with a broader catalog than the US company has to offer right now.

Not that the competition seems to be scaring the Californian firm.

“In the US, our competition is HBO, and in recent years we have both grown in terms of users. People want good content, but not on just one channel,” said Hastings.

One of the big hurdles for pay TV is online piracy, and Netflix officials are aware of that. But Sarandos added that piracy levels have gone down in every country where they have a presence.

Netflix is available in Spain through three subscription packages, ranging from €7.99 to €11.99 a month, with a free one-month trial

In order to add glamor to the Madrid presentation, Netflix brought along some of the stars of its original series, such as Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black), Kyrsten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Will Arnett (Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman), Daryl Hannah and Miguel Ángel Silvestre (Sense8).

Every one of them insisted on how different it is to participate in a Netflix series compared with those made by regular TV stations. “They give you the freedom to portray conflict from a different viewpoint, since there is no need to seek audience acceptance,” explained the Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Silvestre, one of the stars of Sense8, created and directed by the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix).

“I couldn’t imagine a series like this on a normal channel,” said his co-star Daryl Hannah, who became famous in the 1980s with movies such as Blade Runner, Splash and Roxanne.

The strengths and weaknesses of Netflix’s Spanish service

Strengths

Technology. This is one of the aspects that company officials showcase the most. On tech issues, Netflix is cutting-edge. Some of its content is even available on 4K, the highest available definition. A user’s experience will depend on their internet connection and the device on which content is viewed (which can be practically any device with an online connection). The service is also prepared to be unaffected by connection speeds.

A highly personalized experience. Netflix is very popular because of its recommendation system. The company knows what programs a user started watching, which ones were dropped, which searches were made, and uses all that information to come up with suggestions. It also memorizes where a show was left off, so viewers can start at the same scene when they go back to the movie or series.

Original content. Netflix is a big content creator of series, movies, documentaries and children’s programs. The company is expanding this project in Mexico, France and Britain. Some of these productions have been nominated for an Emmy Award, including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Grace & Frankie.

Affordable prices. Netflix offers three kinds of monthly subscriptions whose prices range between €7.99 and €11.99, depending on the number of connections and definition quality. There is one-month free trial (six months for users who subscribe through Vodafone)

Weaknesses

Its top series are premiered on Movistar+. Netflix’s strength lies in its TV series, yet the latest seasons of House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black are in the hands of Movistar +.

Movies, two years after their theatrical release. Netflix does not have a premium service for subscribers, meaning that everyone gets access to the same movies. The trouble is that users have to wait two years after a film’s theatrical release before being able to watch it on Netflix.

Slow on other series. When it comes to TV series made by other stations, Netflix waits until the entire season has been aired before making it available to its own clients. But Spanish users are used to watching episodes the day after their release in the country of origin (or even simultaneously).

Strong competition from Movistar+. A result of merging Canal+ and Movistar, Movistar+ has put together a catalogue of series that is unbeatable in Spain. Yomvi now has over a million users. And there are other streaming content competitors: Wuaki.tv, Filmin, Atresplayer and TotalChannel. Also worth keeping in mind: Netflix will not be showing Game of Thrones, or any other HBO production. That is available on Movistar+ instead.