Netflix will be available to cable customers across the Liberty Global footprint in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. It follows a pioneering partnership between Netflix and Virgin Media, which Liberty Global subsequently acquired. With deals also being struck with American cable operators, Netflix is increasingly becoming part of the pay-television experience.
Mike Fries, the chief executive of Liberty Global, said: “This deal will provide even more freedom to our subscribers — allowing them to access a goldmine of amazing TV and films at the click of a button, fully integrated into their usual TV viewing set-up.”
Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, added: “This partnership builds on our strong relationship with Virgin Media in the UK, allowing millions of our mutual customers around the world to easily access the broadest range of TV shows and movies without having to search for that other remote control. Combining the Netflix app – and all the great content it provides — into the familiar, easy-to-use cable box makes both more appealing.”
The Netherlands will be the first new Liberty Global territory to launch Netflix on the Horizon box as part of this partnership. The rollout will advance to other countries as upgrades across all of Liberty Global operations continue through 2017.
When the Netflix app launches on these platforms, existing Netflix members will be able to log-in and easily search and browse through the Netflix line-up on the main television screen, eliminating the need to have a separate device and to switch between television inputs and remote controls. New customers to Netflix will be able to sign up via the app on the television.
The Liberty Global Group operates in 12 European countries under the consumer brands Virgin Media, Ziggo, Unitymedia, Telenet and UPC. It also operates in over 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean under the brands VTR, Flow, Liberty, Mas Movil and BTC.
The informitv Multiscreen Index shows that Liberty Global has 16.66 million digital television subscribers worldwide, up by 447,000 in the second quarter of 2016. Virgin Media has 3.71 million television customers in the United Kingdom, down by 83,000 since the start of 2013, and around 300,000 in Ireland.
Virgin Media pioneered a deal with Netflix, although it did not actually launch on its TiVo platform until November 2013, after Liberty Global acquired Virgin Media.
Liberty Global launched its own MyPrime subscription video service in European markets from 2014, along with the Play service in Belgium and a partnership with the Maxdome service in Germany in 2015.
Pay-television service providers appear divided on whether Netflix is a friend or foe, or simply a ‘frenemy’ with which they are in ‘co-opertition’. Liberty Global clearly believes it is better to have Netflix as part of its platform than as an external existential threat.
It is also a benefit to Netflix to ensure the quality of experience for its customers over such network providers. Netflix is under pressure to increase its global expansion, having made its service available virtually across the world. Netflix has 46.00 million subscribers in the United States and 33.89 million elsewhere. It now has 79.89 million subscribers worldwide, up from 21.60 million at the end of 2011.
There is generally a benefit for viewers in the integration of Netflix in a service provider platform. They may also end up watching more Netflix programming as a result, increasing the pressure on traditional channels.
BT and TalkTalk in the United Kingdom already offer integration with Netflix. Sky, which has a stronger pay-television proposition, has so far eschewed such a relationship.
Netflix has similar deals in the United States, with Comcast for its XFINITY X1 platform, as well as with DISH Network, Frontier, Suddenlink and RCN. An integration with Charter is also anticipated.
We can expect to see Netflix increasingly become part of the pay-television experience, as much as a standalone service.