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Netflix to make its catalogue available to Italian households from October

by Biagio Simonetta

The world's most important video on demand service will arrive in Italy in the second half of October and hopes to play a leading role right from the start.

With just one month to go before the launch of Netflix, Darren Nielson, the Director of Content Acquisition for Netflix, together with Neil Hunt (Chief Product Officer) spoke to us in Milan.

“We are ready to invest in Italy, to produce Italian television series to export them around the world, thanks to our platform,” said Nielson.

We started from the end, that is, from how much Netflix believes in the Italian market from a production viewpoint, rather than one of sales. And the responses have been encouraging.

“What interests Netflix,” commented Nielson, “is to find great stories, regardless of where they come from. Whether it be the US or England, or Italy, doesn't change anything. We want to produce great stories of the world for all of the world. Even from Italy. We are wide open to listening to new stories and to producing them, or to purchasing the licenses. We have planned great series coming from Denmark and from Latin America. We are not placing any limits for Italy.”

Hunt confirmed his comments. “We would be happy to make an Italian product known to the entire world, thanks to our technology.”

Hunt told us that he is very happy with this new challenge, but when we asked what numbers he is expecting, he said that “we don't talk about numbers.”

We asked Nielson if the sale to Sky Italia of two television series, like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” was not in retrospect a mistake for the Italian market.

But the director of contents sidestepped the question: “We have a very vast catalogue,” he told us, “comprised both of original products as well as licensed products. The one for Italy is our strongest launch category ever. Obviously the service will improve as the days go by, because we will understand what the users like and will offer them more and more content. We will focus on variety, not only individual titles.”

And, for the record, he did not even mention “House of Cards.”

Neil Hunt, meanwhile, said that he is convinced that both the catalogue and the technology of Netflix can make the difference with respect to Italian competitors: “We focus on simplicity. We have thousands of people who work on the technology of Netflix and work every day to make it simpler and easy to access. We offer a free month to the Italians, to judge us and to verify whether the service works well. No contractual obligation, nor obligations. The service can be deactivated with a click.”

A reference was made to a lack of broadband coverage, which is a problem in Italy.

But Hunt did not show any surprise: “Only in Germany there is no problem of a slow connection.”

In any case, the Netflix technologies seem to be the right ones.

“We encode all of the available titles in twelve different quality levels,” Hunt told us “from the lowest one to the ultra-HD. We are working to improve. With an evolution of coding we want to find high quality and low data consumption. In addition, we hope that the connection level improves in Italy. In the meantime, we have worked a lot on “adaptive streaming,” that essentially follows the trend of the connection.

Asked about the possibility that the Italian government may start to tax a service like Netflix, Nielsen doesn't get flustered.

“I don't know the details. But if it is a just and fair tax, we will be happy to pay it as we do in other countries where Netflix is present,” he said.

Lastly, a detail. We asked Hunt if the entire catalogue of offers for Italy has been dubbed in Italian, and how much Netflix paid to have this done: “Yes, we have dubbed the entire catalogue. How much did we spend? We don't talk about numbers.”

That's right, we were forgetting this.