Local content no must-have for Netflix users © Tom Evens

After widespread speculation OTT streaming service Netflix started operations in Belgium on September 19, 2014. Prior to the launch, Flemish newspapers and mag-azines speculated about the possible impact of Netflix. TV broadcasters and distribu-tors hastened to stress that Netflix is a complement, and no alternative, to the avai-lable offer. Especially the fact that Netlix  brings only a limited supply of Flemish con-tent induced these parties to claim that Netflix will not be successful. However, a sur-vey among a representative Internet panel of 2,044 people tends to reveal that broadcasters and distributors should not rest on their laurels.

Our study reveals substantial market potential for Netflix: 28.1% of the Flemish popu-lation shows interest in Netflix, 5.4% is eager to subscribe as soon as the service becomes available. This is completely in line  with figures from neighbouring coun-tries where Netflix was able to seduce between 5 and 7% of the population. We must therefore get rid of this idea that Flanders is an island in  a global sea, and that viewer preferences for local content will discourage international platforms from invading our local ecosystem. Even more, a wide supply of local series and movies is no must-have for potential adopters, who indicate a higher dissatisfaction with the current TV channel supply.

The results confirm disruptive pattern of TV viewing, especially among so-called ‘online media masters’. These young media consumers are everywhere and al-ways connected, and increasingly watch streaming or downloading content  via mo-bile devices and new gadgets like Chromecast. Netflix has responded to this new ge-neration, for whom binge viewing has become an everyday practice. This group ex-pects an extensive supply of quality movies and especially series that can be watched whenever and wherever they want. It is crucial for our local broadcasters and service providers to recognize this evolution and adequately respond to it.

However, let’s end on an optimist note and stress Netflix’ complementary nature. It may be true that a substantial part of  these viewers paying for movies and series packages consider dropping its subscription, but the service should be seen a com-plement to the existing linear TV offer: Netflix partisans will not all cut the cord with Flemish TV channels. But it is certain that Netflix is challenging the Flemish market and has created new dynamics in our small ecosystem where everyone was dozed off a bit.

© Tom Evens

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