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Netflix has become it’s own verb in a sense. “What did you do this weekend?” “Nothing, just Netflixed.” Or a social term, where people physically interact with one another, “Netflix and Chill” has become an innuendo far different from the literal meaning. It has become such a vital role in western culture that binge watching is considered an everyday skill; you need to be able to watch a show within the weekend of its release or you will be susceptible to spoilers as soon as the following week. This cultural phenomenon has yet to spread east, and according to many, it’s possible that Netflix reach peak popularity in eastern cultures; if it does it won’t be at the same level of their western counterparts. Now this could be due to various reasons including competitors and other ways of consuming similar media.

Over the summer Variety released an article summing up the methods that many European countries are taking to prevent the import of Netflix. In France, VOD platform FilmoTV understands that they can’t compete with Netflix’s library or access to content, however they believe that their editorial pieces are incomparable to the streaming giant. Even in western markets that they have succeeded in, Netflix is seeing increased competition arise, threatening their foothold. The UK, for example, introduced sites like BBC iPlayer and Sky as more local platforms for viewers to access content. Nonetheless, they plan to expand to larger European markets like Spain and Germany, neglecting Southern and Eastern Europe for now.

Much of Eastern Europe lacks sufficient broadband making it difficult to stream online video, according to the Variety article. This is a major factor fighting against Netflix’s expansion to the Eastern market, because even if they do open eastern markets, they probably won’t gain enough viewers because of the low streaming speeds.

There is also the factor of piracy at hand; why would people pay for something they can access for free. Poland has the second most piracy views of ‘House of Cards’ after the United States, demonstrating that there is, in fact, a market for the Netflix repertoire there. However, since there’s already a stake in the illegal access of such content, Netflix would have to research how to best enter the market and ensure that fans would buy subscriptions to access the content. Since Poland already provides pirated content, there may be less incentive for viewers to purchase it.

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Shows Internet usage is eastern European countries. Image adapted from fracademic

The free content sphere poses additional threats to Netflix’s expanding empire. Social networking and digital video site, YouTube, has high popularity amongst the Eastern European countries. According to TranslateMedia, it ranks within the top 5 of the majority of Eastern European countries due to its combination of social media and digital content. Another study by Gemius shows that 74% of Internet users in Poland have visited YouTube in 2014.

Netflix has the social aspect in the real world, where you either have to watch with someone or talk about it on another platform. YouTube, however, allows viewers to connect with one another, like and comment on videos creating communities based off of the channels that they subscribe to. It’s possible that since Netflix doesn’t offer the same sense of virtual connectivity, it won’t gain momentum. Netflix does have an online interaction where people can rate shows and movies however there’s a lack of community in this.  Perhaps if Netflix added a more connected aspect to it, where people could see what their friends have watched in the past, there would be more potential.  YouTube combines social media networking and digital video in a platform that allows users to express their ideas with one another while simultaneously getting entertainment. It’s almost like the best of Netflix and FaceBook rolled into one.

The Polish interest in this media could be because of the desire to create a more western culture or simply because they are interested in western content. Not only do they have high interest in YouTube, they have the most interest in Netflix content, showing that digital video is a great interest amongst Polish Internet users. It would be interesting to see if Netflix opens a market in Poland and if it reaches the same success that YouTube has seen.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr

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