Last month, NBCUniversal became the latest showbiz conglom to say that it would withdraw from the channels market in Russia. The economic downturn, made worse by sanctions and falling oil revenue, and legislative changes — including a ban on advertising on pay TV channels, and limitations on foreign ownership — are two of the factors forcing out such global corporations.
Netflix, on the other hand, is looking to set up store in Russia, as part of its global rollout, which it is looking to complete in the next two years.
The first international markets it entered were Canada, Latin America, the U.K., Ireland, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. Launches have followed in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Next up will be the start of operations in Australia and New Zealand in March, and Japan later this year.
“It is our ambition to be a global internet TV network,” Joris Evers, Netflix’s head of communications for Europe, told Variety Monday, “and we expect to complete our global expansion over the next two years.”
He added: “We would certainly hope that Russia is part of that expansion, but I am not able to share any further details at this time. We have confirmed that we will launch in Australia and New Zealand in March and in Japan later this year, but beyond that we have not announced any specific expansion plans.”
If it does go into Russia, Netflix will find plenty of competition from both legal and illegal operators. On the legal side, the leading player is Amedia, which is backed by U.S. investor Len Blavatnik. It has deals in place with Starz, HBO, CBS/Showtime, Fox, Warner Bros., Sony and ABC Studios, among other producers-distributors. On the illegal side, the Russian government has made strides in its efforts to rein in the pirates, but the criminal operators still have the potential to eat up potential audiences for any high-profile show or movie.