Christopher Whiteley, currently leading business development across EMEA for Netflix, spoke at the IBC2016 Conference session, ‘The New Broadcasters: The Rise of Internet TV Networks - Netflix’ where he discussed Netflix’s distribution strategy in EMEA through partners such as Virgin, Apple and Samsung.
IBC: You are here at IBC to discuss partnerships. Which key companies has Netflix partnered with and why are they important to you?
CW: We look to work with partners who make it easier for our subscribers to discover Netflix, watch our shows, pay seamlessly, or enjoy a better streaming experience. This includes pioneering new technologies and offering content in new formats such as 4K and HDR.
It’s hard to single any one partnership out as being more important than others but we value the relationships that we have with the consumer electronic industry, early MVPD partners like Virgin and Com Hem as well as our more recent ones.
IBC: Your partnerships with pay-TV operators such as Virgin would traditionally have been regarded as rivals…
CW: It can sometimes be a challenge persuading partners to work with us. It was initially a strategic bet on both parts that we could be a real complimentary content service and not cannibalistic. The convenience of watching Netflix through a set-top box is highly valued by some of our members, and online video is a strong customer acquisition tool for network operators. Our app has been available on Virgin’s streaming service since 2013 and we still have a great relationship with them. We’re also collaborating on other strategic partnerships with local operators across many territories globally.
View Chris Whiteley’s IBC2016 presentation
IBC: In January 2016 Netflix went global, simultaneously launching services in 130 countries. What’s the company strategy now for localising into these markets?
CW: We were really excited to be able to bring the service to the world and become the first global internet TV service. As well as gaining new members, we are learning so much to continue to improve the service. For instance, we don’t have local language services everywhere yet and there are a whole heap of languages to localise into. We’ve just announced the next wave of localisation (with subtitling and dubbing) in Poland and Turkey. Flipping the switch in January was just the start of the journey; it’s a good way of getting a feel for each of those territories – gathering data, finding out what works and what doesn’t.
IBC: Is data crucial to your business?
CW: Absolutely. Data shapes everything we do – we use it as best we can in every decision we take. This sometimes removes the emotion behind a decision. If we know that something has been A/B tested and does improve the user experience, it simplifies our decision making process and our efficiency.
“Data shapes everything we do – we use it as best we can in every decision we take”
IBC: Original content is a big part of your strategy – how are you addressing this in European markets?
CW: It is important to note that in general, we have seen that great stories transcend borders – we may be different culturally but we all seem to love a great story.
We see this with Narcos, a big production that is 75 per cent in Spanish about Pablo Escobar, and Making a Murderer, a legal docu-series about a murder in a small Wisconsin town that no-one’s heard of. Both ranked among the top 10 most viewed content in nearly all of our markets when they became available.
We have committed hundreds of millions of euros in European productions so far, an investment that continues to grow. Our first Netflix original series created in Europe, Marseille, premiered in early May and is getting strong viewing everywhere.
A second Europe-produced Netflix original, The Crown, launched later last year. Additionally, we have series in the works in Spain (7 Anos and a TV series with no title yet), Italy (Suburra) and Germany (dark) and are actively looking for additional projects.
IBC: What are the main challenges you face in your job?
CW: The biggest challenge is prioritisation. We are in a lucky position in that many companies want to work with us – so where do we go? We are still a relatively small company employing around 2,500 dedicated people. We need to make sure that we are focusing our engineering and content acquisition following the data we get from consumers.
VP Business Development EMEA, Netflix
Chris is an experienced digital media business leader having spent many years helping media companies and media investment funds find strategic growth opportunities, find the right companies to invest in or partner with, and then to execute on their plans.
He is currently leading business development across EMEA for Netflix, working on partnerships that make it easier for people to find Netflix, sign up to Netflix and watch great shows and movies.
Before Netflix, Chris worked for BBC Worldwide for almost 4 years heading up digital strategy and global business development including BBC.com, short form video, BBCW Labs, BBC Store and looking after relationships with global digital partners such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
This interview was first conducted for IBC2016