Canadians Suffering Inferiority Complex Over Their Netflix Service, CEO Suggests

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  • Netflix appears to be winning border-hopping war
  • Once complained about Canada’s ‘third world internet’
  • U.S. Netflix catalog has shrunk by a third

Canadians relentlessly compare themselves to Americans — these days, often favourably. But when it comes digital media, we’re pretty convinced the U.S. has a better deal.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings evidently thinks we doth protest too much. Wired magazine reports:

Canadians, says Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, harbor constant insecurities about the depth of the streaming catalog in their country, despite having access to several titles—Star Wars: The Force Awakens soon among them—unavailable to its southerly neighbors.

But if Canadians are complaining about the quality of their digital media, then Netflix has to take its share of the blame for that. Just a few years back, Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, argued that Canada’s internet services make it an honourary member of the Third World.

It’s almost a human rights violation what they’re charging for internet access in Canada,” Sarandos said.

Hastings himself argued in 2013 that the bandwidth caps internet providers have put on their services are holding back Canada's internet economy.

It’s a deterrent to Canadian society that exists nowhere else in the world,” he said, although since then, bandwidth caps have become commonplace in the U.S. as well.

reed hastings netflix
Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, speaks during a keynote address at the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2016. (Reuters photo)

U.S. Catalog Shrinking, And Others Might Too

While it is true that Canadian Netflix will be the only one to offer "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," it is also true that Canada’s Netflix catalog is considerably smaller than the U.S. one.

According to AllFlicks.net, a blog that tracks availability on Netflix services around the world, there were 3,309 selections on Canadian Netflix as of last count, compared to 5,540 releases on the U.S. service.

But AllFlicks says the U.S. Netflix catalog is actually shrinking — down by a third over the last two-and-a-half years, from around 8,100 titles to around 5,500 today.

The blog has a theory as to why:

The growing competition in the streaming space: With services like Hulu and Amazon Prime all bidding on streaming rights, the price is bound to rise. That helps explain why Netflix’s record investments in content have yielded smaller and smaller catalogs with each passing year.

Netflix is now also facing heavier competition in Canada, where streaming services Cravetv and Shomi have been working to cut into Netflix’s business.

Both services are aiming to beat Netflix at selection. Bell’s Cravetv offers a full catalog of HBO shows and original movies, while Rogers’ Shomi offers some TV shows and movies that are available on U.S. Netflix, but not the Canadian one.

Still, Netflix insists it wants to build a single, integrated content catalog for the whole world that would make border-hopping unnecessary.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” the company said earlier this year, when announcing a crackdown on border-hoppers.

Apparently Winning The Border-Hopping War

Netflix seems to be winning that crackdown.

Though piracy experts doubted it at first, the streaming service seems to have succeeded to a large extent. Subscribers of Unblock-US and UnoTelly, two of the most prominent unblocking services, have been complaining on Twitter for weeks that they can no longer access content from the U.S. catalog.

The companies themselves have been quiet on the issue. According to a report at CBC, many of them face financial ruin if Netflix’s crackdown succeeds.

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