Knocking the floodgates wide open, Liberty Global announced this morning that it will make Netflix content available on its digital TV platforms in more than 30 countries between now and the end of 2017. That includes service footprints in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, starting with a deployment in the Netherlands on Liberty Global's Horizon set-top.
This isn't the first time Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) has made Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) content available to subscribers. Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), a subsidiary of Liberty Global, already offers a Netflix app to customers on leased TiVo set-tops. However, the new deal does mark the first time that customers with Liberty's advanced Horizon platform can access the streaming service. Earlier this year, Liberty Global said it had begun consolidating set-top platforms in an upgrade initiative it's calling Eos. Eventually that project will hit Virgin Media territory, and presumably will lead to a phasing-out of the TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes.
The new Netflix partnership with Liberty Global follows closely on the heels of a similar announcement between Netflix and US cable company Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). The two news updates together suggest that the dam has finally broken for Netflix after years of trying to extend its distribution through service provider channels. (See Comcast Confirms Netflix Coming to X1.)
Comcast hasn't talked about how it will integrate Netflix with its X1 platform, but it appears that Liberty Global will deliver the service as a siloed app. Liberty emphasizes the advantage for consumers of not having to switch between multiple devices for content access, but it does not mention a unified search feature that would allow customers to navigate content across both the pay-TV and Netflix domains in a single user interface. (See FCC's New Pay-TV Plan: Shove It Up Your App.)
For Netflix, the deal with Liberty Global helps further its international ambitions, which Netflix has been pursuing both through service launches in new countries and new distribution deals with service providers. In January, Netflix launched in more than 130 new countries worldwide including India, Nigeria, Russia and many others. (See Netflix: The Birth of a Global TV Network.)
Not all of Netflix's global markets have launched smoothly. According to Variety, Netflix has had trouble winning mass appeal in France because of a lack of strong local content. The publication also reported that Netflix was closing its Paris office last month and moving operations to its European headquarters in the Netherlands.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading