Service bows in C. America, Caribbean next week

Netflix is rolling out its online video streaming service across 43 Latin American and Caribbean countries sooner than anticipated.

The Portuguese-language version of Netflix bowed Monday, allowing Brazilians to begin a free, one-month trial on its website.

On Wednesday, the Spanish-language version of Netflix will roll out in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, followed by Chile the following day. On Friday, the Andean region of Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador will get the streaming service.

Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean follow on Sept. 12.

Monthly fees range from nearly $8 in Mexico and Central America to $9 in Brazil and Argentina.

In the run-up to its launch in the region, Netflix inked content deals with powerhouse producers Globo of Brazil, Mexico’s Televisa and TV Azteca, Argentina’s Telefe, Caracol of Colombia and NBC Universal’s Telemundo.

However, Netflix faces myriad challenges in a developing region where broadband penetration remains a lowly 24%, according to studies by Euromonitor and Teleco. Out of 155 million households, only 37 million are broadband subscribers.

“Telecoms in Latin America will need to replace the copper wire now prevalent with more fiber optic technology to improve online delivery speed and quality,” Goldman Sachs Latin America telecom analyst Lucio Aldworth said.

While Internet piracy is rampant in the region, Netflix believes its relatively low-cost offer makes it more attractive than bootlegged DVDs.

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