One thing was clear at the Netflix CES keynote on Wednesday morning; while 2015 was a banner year for the company, with subscriptions in 70 million homes around the world, 2016 has even bigger things in store. “We’re at the start of a global revolution,” says CEO Reed Hastings. “We live in an on-demand world, and there’s no going back.”
After an hour of celebrating some of the network’s most popular films and TV shows (along with a couple of sneak previews of new programmes), Hastings finishes with a rather grand announcement; during the session, Netflix launched in 130 new countries. “While you have been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in nearly every country in the world,” he says, cheekily adding; “except China, where we hope to be in the future.”
Also present on the panel, albeit briefly, are a number of Netflix stars; Chelsea Handler, presenter of an upcoming documentary series, Will Arnett (BoJack Horseman and Arrested Development), Krysten Ritter (Marvel’s Jessica Jones) and Wagner Moura (Narcos). Each admits to having been overwhelmed by the global popularity of their respective projects, with Handler praising Hastings and Sarandos for being so open to taking a risk on her pitch. “It’s a great place to work,” she says, with Ritter adding; “It’s the best place to work.”
Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos reveals to the audience that even way back in 2000, Netflix had its eye on streaming, and was simply waiting for the cost of digital delivery to fall below that of physical DVDs. “The technology is there, it’s the business models that stand in the way,” he says of the entertainment industry; he believes that consumers neither understand nor care about TV business models. They simply want to be able to watch what they want, when they want.
There is no such thing as “typical” Netflix content; it could appeal to a five year old, a teenager or a grandmother, all living in the same household. Netflix’s recommendations allow the company to rely less on marketing while still building and retaining an audience, which in turn means it can take more risks. “We’re in a unique position to bring the world’s stories to the world’s people,” says Sarandos, citing the company’s willingness to work with creative talent from all over the world in order to bring an incredibly diverse roster of programming to its audience, ranging from high brow to low brow, and everything in between.
This universality and accessibility translates from content to the platform itself; the Netflix UI is already in 17 languages, and the app is available across iOS and Android, set up so that consumers can make payment with a single click. Hastings adds that they currently have over 1,000 engineers working to offer better global delivery, more intuitive UIs, excellent picture and audio quality, and even more accurate recommendations.
“You’re witnessing the birth of a global TV network,” concludes Hastings. “Whether you’re in Sydney or St Petersburg, Singapore or Seoul, Santiago or Saskatoon, you now can be part of the TV revolution. No more waiting. No more watching on a schedule that’s not your own. No more frustration. Just Netflix, how, when and wherever you are in the world. Today you have witnessed an incredible event.”