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Netflix Looks to Partnerships for Growth; ‘No Plans’ for Live Sport

Netflix will continue to look to new international partnerships for growth but has no plans to pursue live sports broadcasting, Maria Ferreras, the streaming giant’s vice president of business development EMEA, said Friday.

Speaking in front of an industry audience at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam in an interview focused on looking at the next chapter in Netflix’s growth story, Ferreras also sought to reassure broadcast partners that Netflix was not intending to discontinue partnerships which see it take global rights outside of a production’s territory of origin. Netflix has partnered with local broadcasters in numerous markets, such as with Channel 4 on dark comedy “The End of the F***ing World,” which see productions play in their home market via broadcast partners and everywhere else on Netflix. However, many U.K. producers have recently voiced concerns that Netflix planned to stop this type of partnership as it got increasingly into local production.

“I don’t see any signs of that,” said Ferreras. “We can definitely complement very well what [local broadcasters] are doing and we’ve shown we can expand the value of this content outside their home market.” She said taking up such partnerships depended on the opportunities available, highlighting “The End of the F***ing World,” which has just been renewed for a second season, as a perfect fit for the SVOD service. “It’s not like every single show that’s produced by a broadcaster could make sense on Netflix. We can have different audiences, different appeals, or are in need of different kinds of content, depending on the [market].”

She also focused on the company’s commitment to local television production. “We’re producing lots of new shows in India. We’re definitely committed to local talent,” said Ferreras, pointing to the company’s new European production hub in Madrid, which was announced in July, as a key example. “This shows our commitment to investment in terms of production.” Although she said there were currently no other plans to establish similar international studio spaces she said that didn’t mean more wouldn’t follow. “Continuously we try to keep innovating.”

“What is clear is we’re not restricting ourselves to looking for talent in the U.S. We’re looking to really invest and find talent in other places,” continued Ferreras, saying investing in local productions proved beneficial both for local talent and Netflix’s global appeal. She highlighted the success of Danish science fiction thriller “The Rain” (pictured), suggesting such a high-end production would be difficult to justify producing purely for the limited Danish market. “When you look into this global appeal then you go from a local production from a small country [to one] that can really export to other places, then the creators and talent find themselves able to follow their dreams and their ideas, develop their [stories] locally but find an audience globally,” said Ferreras.

In terms of growing Netflix’s accessibility around the world, Ferreras said the company would increasing look to developing partnerships, such as its new partnership with Sky, announced in March, which will see Netflix made accessible to Sky subscribers across its European markets (UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy) through a new package. Ferreras said the new Sky package would launch in the U.K. at the end of the year.

“We’re committed to partnerships. We want to keep exploring partnerships because we believe they bring growth, they foster dynamism, and also they provide a great consumer experience,” said Ferreras.

Ferreras said that when working with partners Netflix looks as differing levels of integration in terms of three parts: product, business and marketing. “It’s critical to ensure, depending on the type of partnership, we explore everything we can do.” She said that, while such partnerships were not new for the streaming giant, the company was looking to take them “to the next level.”

“We’re taking them to the next level, both in terms of number, in terms of countries where we’re going to be doing this, and also in terms of how deep we want to go into these partnerships,” said Ferreras. “We are now ready to go deeper and really explore the three parts in a much bigger way.”

She said the streaming giant’s criteria for working with both telecommunications and Pay TV services were necessarily different depending on the market. “If you look at a partner in the U.K. and a partner in South Africa, we can’t really demand exactly the same volume or criteria, so we try to be very loyal to what we’re trying to achieve at a country level. Then we look into different areas like marketing investment; impact we think we can have on consumers; what is the potential of the partnership?” explained Ferreras. “Netflix is very good at being patient so it’s not like we need to get results straight away. We try to look more into the potential versus what is going to be achievable in the first year.”

The SVOD service will also continue to look at developing new original content at a local level beyond the high-end drama for which it has become renowned, but has no plans to follow rival Amazon into live sports. Ferreras said that Netflix had looked to explore sport through its documentary programming but that, while the additional value the streamer could bring to TV shows and film were evident the same wasn’t true for live sports coverage.

“I think in terms of live sports there’s nothing we can do differently from a television broadcaster, so it doesn’t add additional value,” said Ferreras. “You can never say never, but there’s no plans to go into that.” Amazon recently met with high levels of consumer complaints over its U.K. coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

She said the streaming service was continuing to explore unscripted formats and production and had found great success with a number of cooking shows in different markets, as well as talk shows, especially in the U.S. “We’re in this constant exploratory phase,” said Ferreras.

“Comedy has been very successful as well and we’ve been doing that locally,” she added, mentioning specials with local comedians that Netflix has produced in markets including the U.K., Middle East, Italy, Spain and India. “We’re definitely exploring many different things that might not resonate on a global level, but it doesn’t mean it’s not big for that audience.”

She also pointed to Netflix’s recent triumph at the Venice Film Festival, where Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” won top prize the Golden Lion. “I think it’s really good that that’s happening and that’s been produced by Netflix,” said Ferreras. “We’re definitely trying to open up the sort of things we’re doing.”

The IBC Conference, an annual media, entertainment and technology show, runs Sept. 13-17.

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