What has the rise of Netflix meant for storytelling in different parts of the world? How can we study a streaming service that is (almost) globally available, but which varies enormously from country to country in its use, programming and market position? What patterns of similarity and difference can we observe in Netflix’s global instantiations?
These are some of the questions explored in this week’s In Media Res collection, and in our related In Focus section of Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.
Contributors to this collection, all members of a research network on internet-distributed television services, have been looking closely at Netflix in specific countries. In this project we have been animated not only by the specific task of understanding Netflix’s varied impact across diverse cultural contexts but also by the larger question of how to theorise a global video platform.
One way into this issue is to consider how Netflix projects its value differently for different markets. The clip above is a Netflix promo created for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which hooks directly into Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ oft-repeated quip that Netflix competes with sleep.
It is interesting to note here the emphasis of Netflix’s creative team on the promise of individual control over the media environment (“Your story, your way”) within a multigenerational media household, where control over the TV remote is shared with older relatives.
Other promo campaigns by Netflix have focused on celebrities well known to particular markets. See this spot by Ricky Gervais lampooning differences between US and UK media.
The lack of promo also tells us something interesting. In Australia, Netflix did not feel the need to do any paid advertising in the lead-up to its local launch because its brand-image was very familiar to an Aussie consumer base already hooked into US media trends.
These variable efforts by Netflix to establish its difference in international markets media give us clues as to how this Silicon Valley company sees the world. In other words, they suggest something of the different imaginaries -- of national cultures, markets, and desires -- that lie behind the company’s internationalization.