Netflix will reduce the quality of its streaming in Europe to ease pressure on the internet, the firm said, as demand soars across the continent where millions are confined to their homes over coronavirus fears.
The streaming giant will “begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the statement added.
With wide-ranging lockdowns and quarantines, schools, shops and borders closed and gatherings banned, people across Europe are increasingly turning to the internet to stave off boredom.
But the huge file sizes of high definition offerings from web giants like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO and Amazon are slowing the web, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market and digital economy warned.
“Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain,” he said in a tweet Thursday, calling for online platforms to switch to streaming in standard definition instead of HD.
Gamers breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the end of an hours-long network outage that affected Nintendo’s online games and prompted despair from users.
“Only a few days into the coronavirus self-isolation and Nintendo servers are already down… oh dear god,” tweeted one.
Online streaming giant, Netflix’s first made-in-Africa production, Queen Sono, a spy thriller starring South Africa’s leading actress Pearl Thusi, has been making waves since its launch on Friday.
Created and directed by leading local satirist and actor Kagiso Lediga, Queen Sono is part of Netflix’s broader “Made in Africa, Seen by the World” strategy and one of its first investments on the continent.
Shot at more than 37 locations including in Kenya, Zanzibar, Nigeria and South Africa — Queen Sono is the first original script-to-screen series from Africa.
Netflix’s Africa manager Dorothy Ghettuba describes the movie as “a gripping action pact thriller (that) … follows the life of Queen Sono, a highly trained secret spy who works for South Africans”.
“I have always been the face of a strong African woman; it’s not new to me but I’m now representing a character on screen who is, I think reflecting all the women in Africa that are strong, black African women,” said Thusi, who is also a star of US FBI thriller series “Quantico”.
The production shows “exactly what we wish to do which is telling stories about Africa by Africans,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief content officer at Netflix.
For creator and director Lediga “there are so many stories, there are so many great filmmakers on the continent, I can’t wait to see what comes up after this”.
“It shows that we as Africans we can to do things by ourselves, we don’t need Europeans or Asians or anyone to tell our own stories. We understand ourselves and we can actually tell our story better than anybody else”.
Days after its release, many have expressed huge love for the series across social media, saying it is time Africa started telling its own stories.
what makes Queen Sono so revolutionary, is the fully served story of african women fighting and saving the continent as it always have been.
Someone commission me to write about Queen Sono and how it tells the very needed story: AFRICAN WOMEN HAVE ALWAYS SAVED THE CONTINENT
Netflix is seeing rapid subscriber growth in regions including Asia and Latin America as it girds for tougher competition in the streaming market, newly detailed figures show.
In a regulatory filing this week, Netflix offered the first detailed look at its finances from various regions around the world,
The figures showed nearly 14.5 million subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region at the end of September, representing growth of more than 50 percent over the previous 12 months.
The region including Europe, the Middle East and Africa had some 47 million paid subscribers, up 40 percent year-over-year, in the largest segment outside North America.
Latin America included some 29 million subscribers, a rise of 22 per cent over the past year, Netflix said in the filing.
North America is the largest market for Netflix with some 67 million subscribers but growth over the past year was just 6.5 percent.
Netflix is the leader in streaming television, operating in some 190 countries, but it is facing new offerings from deep-pocketed rivals including Disney, Apple, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
Netflix shares rallied Wednesday after its latest quarterly update showed robust subscriber growth and better-than-expected profits ahead of a major escalation in the streaming television war.
Netflix reported a net income of $665 million in the recently ended quarter, jumping up from $403 million in the same period last year and topping most analyst forecasts.
Revenue and subscriber growth, however, came in just shy of market consensus. The California-based company saw revenue up 31 percent at $5.25 billion and added 6.8 million subscribers worldwide to reach a total of 158.3 million.
Netflix shares climbed more than 10 percent after-market trades.
The company, whose recent hits include “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” was upbeat on its ability to thrive even as powerful competitors such as Disney and Apple enter the streaming market in November.
When Netflix began streaming television to subscribers online some 12 years ago — in a pivot from just lending video discs through the mail — it was essentially Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube and Netflix itself competing with traditional television, chief executive Reed Hastings said in an earnings broadcast.
And all of the streaming rivals will still find their main competition in broadcast TV, according to Hastings, who was confident Netflix would thrive through compelling original shows.
“We see both Apple and Disney launching essentially the same week after 12 years of not being in the market,” Hastings said.
“Fundamentally, it is more of the same. Disney will be a great competitor; Apple is just beginning but, you know, they will probably have some great shows too.”
But eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom said the latest report includes signs of trouble ahead for the market leader, which fell short of its subscriber targets.
“The fourth quarter represents a completely new ballgame for Netflix as Disney+ and Apple TV+ will compete not just for subscribers, but for hit shows as well,” Haggstrom said.
“The fact that Netflix has shown disappointing growth without the new competition present is a negative omen for Netflix in 2020 and beyond.”
And more competition looms on the horizon, as AT&T’s WarnerMedia will launch its new Netflix rival “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”
Netflix slightly trimmed its forecast for subscriber growth, saying it expected the count to be up 26.7 million at the end of this year, but that its positive outlook for the future remained firm.
It cited factors such as uncertainty about new viewers, response to price changes and forthcoming competition.
The third quarter’s rise in revenue also means Netflix could invest to improve the service and make more original shows to battle competition in markets around the world.
“We have been moving increasingly to original content both because of the anticipated pullback of second run content from some studios and because our original content is working in the form of member viewing and engagement,” Netflix said.
“We’re expanding our non-English language original offerings because they continue to help grow our penetration in international markets.”
Netflix has released originally produced local language shows in 17 countries and has plans to expand to 30, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
Netflix’s original films released in the recently ended quarter included “solid hits” such as “Secret Obsession,” starring Brenda Song, and “Otherhood,” directed by Cindy Chupack.
Netflix-backed films set for release this quarter include Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” with actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and “Marriage Story,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.
“Amazing content can be expensive,” Netflix said.
“We don’t shy away from taking bold swings if we think the business impact will also be amazing.”
Netflix said it would spend about $15 billion in cash on content this year, with the majority of that money devoted to producing original shows.
Netflix also sees its technology platform as an advantage, enabling it to stream to people on all kinds of devices and to mine mountains of data to feed users recommendations about what to watch next — and to give producers insights about what audiences like.
Hastings reasoned that with Facebook and YouTube boasting billions of active users, and billions of mobile phones users who can stream shows from the internet, there is a huge market for Netflix and its rivals to share.
Netflix announced Monday a fourth season of retro sci-fi show “Stranger Things,” the site’s most successful original production, as it bids to fend off intense competition from other streaming platforms.
The video subscription service added that it had entered into a multi-year deal with the hit series’ creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, to work on unspecified film and series projects.
“Stranger Things,” a nostalgic 1980s drama about a gang of suburban adolescents battling supernatural monsters, became an instant hit for Netflix when it was launched in 2016.
The third season smashed the platform’s global viewing records in July when 40.7 million accounts viewed it in its first four days of airing.
The finale to the third season left the door firmly open for a sequel.
Netflix announced the fourth series by tweeting a video along with the tag line “We’re not in Hawkins anymore,” a reference to the fictional Indiana town where the story began.
The tweet appears to suggest that the monsters in the show now live somewhere else, as hinted at the end of season three.
The Duffer brothers were virtually unknown when Netflix commissioned their idea about teenagers confronting supernatural creatures and a parallel universe in a smalltown American.
“We can’t wait to see what The Duffer Brothers have in store when they step outside the world of The Upside Down,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, referring to the alternative universe in “Stranger Things.”
He did not give any further details about their future productions in the press release.
Netflix is the market leader in global television and film streaming, with over 140 million paying accounts worldwide.
It is accelerating its content production as Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal launch their own streaming platforms.
Competition in India’s booming streaming market is heating up as Netflix joins forces with a director of Bollywood feel-good blockbusters and Apple launches its TV platform for 99 rupees ($1.39) a month.
Netflix announced late Wednesday a long-term partnership with Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment to make a range of new fiction and non-fiction series and films for the platform.
Johar has directed eight films including “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” with Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, and “Raazi”, nominated for best picture at next week’s Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, dubbed the Bollywood Oscars.
“It’s going to be P.H.A.T — pretty hot and tempting,” said Johar, whose Dharma Entertainment is one of India’s biggest production firms and which already teamed up with Netflix for the successful “Lust Stories” anthology.
Netflix has removed a graphic suicide scene from season one of the hit show “13 Reasons Why” following concern from mental health experts who fear it glorifies suicide.
The move comes two years after the launch of the show, which follows the story of high school student Hannah Baker who takes her own life.
While praised for raising issues such as bullying and self-harm, the show had come under criticism from schools and psychologists worried it could trigger copycat suicides among young people struggling with mental health issues.
“As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show,” Netflix said on Twitter late Monday.
“So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one.”
Producer Yorkey said the graphic suicide scene was intended to show “the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it.”
“No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
“We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers.”
Netflix said the show had encouraged discussion about mental health issues.
“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help — often for the first time,” it said.
Two studies published in May found that suicides among US youths rose significantly in the months following the popular show’s release.
A study commissioned by Netflix and carried out by Northwestern University last year found that a majority of teens said the show helped them understand depression better and empathize with victims of bullying.
Netflix chief Reed Hastings will depart Facebook’s board of directors at the end of next month, according to a Friday filing with US regulators by the leading social network.
Neither Hastings nor businessman and political figure Erskine Bowles, who have been on the board since 2011, will be nominated for re-election at an annual shareholders meeting on May 30, Facebook said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Hastings’ departure comes as the social network prioritizes services such as live streaming and on-demand video that compete with Netflix.
Facebook said it had nominated PayPal core markets senior vice president Peggy Alford to join its board, making the tech industry veteran the first African-American woman to join its ranks.
“Peggy is one of those rare people who’s an expert across many different areas — from business management to finance operations to product development,” Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in the filing.
“I know she will have great ideas that help us address both the opportunities and challenges facing our company.”
Facebook’s board members include Zuckerberg, investor Marc Andreessen, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Peter Thiel of the Founders Fund.
“What excites me about the opportunity to join Facebook’s board is the company’s drive and desire to face hard issues head-on while continuing to improve on the amazing connection experiences they have built over the years,” Alford said in the filing.
Facebook has been grappling with questions over its handling of personal data of its more than two billion users and protects against — as well as concerns the social network is used to spread misinformation and abuse.
A new Netflix series billed as the teenage “Breaking Bad” is inspired by a real-life German youth who ran an online drug empire from his bedroom, its creators told AFP.
The makers of “How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)” even met up with Maximilian S. on one of his days out of prison where he is serving seven years for “running the Amazon of illegal drugs” — selling everything from MDMA to marijuana.
While his mother thought of him as a “lazy and grumpy” 19-year-old who wouldn’t leave his room, he made 4.4 million euros ($4.9 million) worth of Bitcoin in little over a year from his Shiny Flakes online store.
Police still couldn’t access all of his Bitcoin accounts when he was jailed in 2015.
“When you think of the drug business, you think of the Cali cartel and Pablo Escobar,” said the series’ makers Philipp Kassbohrer and Matthias Murmann on Sunday as the series was premiered at the Canneseries festival in the French Riviera resort.
“But this young German weirdo guy who was doing this himself was having a big effect on the European drug market.
‘Best dealer in Europe’
“He was the best dealer in Europe and he didn’t just do it in the Darknet (that part of the internet hidden from public view), he did it in the clearweb,” Murmann said.
“You could find his site on a normal browser. It had customer reviews and everything: ‘If you liked this drug, you might like to try this…'”
The young man they would later know as “Max” — who was treated as a juvenile by the courts — turned up one day at their offices when the series was still being shot after he heard his story had been picked up.
“We thought he was making it up. But it was him,” said Murmann, a self-confessed geek himself.
“He had to sleep in jail but he could travel around during the day. It was interesting to get his mindset,” and to find out how proud he was of the “customer experience”.
He even showed the director “how he arranged the MDMA in boxes. ‘No, I did it like this,’ he said. It as a real headspin for the actors,” Murmann recalled.
By that point, shooting had already begun of the show, which they had turned into a buddy story of a 17-year-old high school student who sets up a drugs site with his wheelchair-bound best friend to try to win back his girlfriend, who has returned for a year out in the US as pill-popping party animal.
‘He was a bit too smart’
“It was inspired rather than based on him because when we dug into his true story we found it was very short and boring,” Kassbohrer added.
“He was a little bit too smart. He only made one big mistake and that’s why he got arrested… but when he turned up, it was a weird bridge with reality.”
The pair, whose BTF studio makes late-night TV shows and computer games, used fast editing and smartphone-style pop-ups to recreate the superconnected lifestyles of Generation Z teenagers.
Kassbohrer said “Max” was like many of this age group, trying to make their mark but in his own terribly misguided way.
“He really is a nice guy but you cannot forget that he did something very criminal and he was connected to people who were doing even bigger criminal things.
“He didn’t think it through, he was just focusing on the user experience and the technical side,” Kassbohrer added.
In fact, he was so proud of his “customer experience” that he gave an interview to “a journalist friend of ours when he was still dealing and told her that he even had a customer services and marketing department, when it was just him in his room.”
He had that “Steve Jobs thing” of not fully thinking through the consequences, Kassbohrer said, “just like Jobs hadn’t worried about people dying in China to make iPhones.”
“How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)” goes online on May 31.
The Toronto International Film Festival launched on Thursday with a Netflix production – the first time any major movie showcase has opened on a release not intended for theatres.
Cannes, the world’s largest film festival, issued a decree earlier this year banning movies from competition that do not have a theatrical release in France.
But in an apparent rebuke, the 43rd TIFF opens with Netflix’s “Outlaw King,” which will be available only to subscribers of the streaming giant.
“We went with the best film we could find that really fit the scale that we want for opening night,” festival chief Cameron Bailey told AFP.
“It’s a big period epic, a really rousing story of Robert the Bruce – a contemporary of William Wallace who audiences might remember from ‘Braveheart,'” he said.
Filmed on location in Scotland, “Outlaw King” reunites director David Mackenzie with his “Hell or High Water” actor Chris Pine, who plays the 14th century Scottish king.
The epic story about Robert the Bruce’s struggle to regain control of Scotland after England declares him an outlaw also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson – also at the festival in “A Million Little Pieces” — Florence Pugh and Billy Howle.
Netflix pulled all its films from consideration at Cannes after the ban was announced on its non-theatrical releases. Bailey said, however, TIFF was “fully behind the theatrical experience.”
“I think people are going to be thrilled to see films in the finest possible way you can present them which is in a great big old theatre, with incredible sound,” he said.
“But if the films come from a streaming service, that’s just fine,” he added.
More from Netflix
Bailey said online movie platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu were “supporting some of the best talent around these days.”
“And we really value not only the theatrical experience but the ability of filmmakers to make the films they want to make. So whatever is going to get those films made, we are supportive of.”
It is not the first time a Netflix film has screened at TIFF. Dee Rees’s “Mudbound” and Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” premiered in Toronto last year, and Netflix also picked up the rights to several other films at the festival.
This year TIFF will also screen Netflix’s “Roma” from “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron, as well as Paul Greengrass’s “22 July,” about Norway’s deadliest terror attack, and Jeremy Saulnier’s thriller “Hold the Dark.”
All are likely to bypass movie theatres.
“I cannot imagine a better place to have our world premiere,” Mackenzie said in a statement.
“Scotland and Canada’s histories are bound together, forged in the crucible of the struggles of history, bringing this day an affinity and sensibility that I hope will translate to a profound, visceral, and riotously entertaining experience,” he added.
More than 300 feature and short films from 74 countries — 31,300 minutes of film in total — will be screened at TIFF, the biggest film festival in North America, which runs through September 16.
They include Xavier Dolan’s much-anticipated English-language debut “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” Steve McQueen’s thriller “Widows,” starring Viola Davis, and Claire Denis’s “High Life” with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche.
Michael Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 11/9” leads a hot documentary lineup that includes profiles of legendary music producer Quincy Jones, influential director Ingmar Bergman and soprano Maria Callas.
“The Elephant Queen” follows the journey of an elephant herd, while “The Truth About Killer Robots” is described as an “eye-opening work of science non-fiction.”
Drake pulled out at the last minute Thursday from introducing “Monsters and Men,” about a Brooklyn community rocked by the fatal police shooting of a black man.
It was a blow to his fans, but also for TIFF, which was forced earlier this week to nix one of its Gala Presentations, “Galveston,” because director Melanie Laurent could not make the screening, citing “work commitments.”
In past years, films such as “Spotlight,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The King’s Speech” went on from winning the Toronto festival’s audience prize for best picture to take the top honor at the Oscars.
But many of the films positioned for accolades this year — including a remake of “A Star is Born” with Lady Gaga, Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” starring Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the western “The Sisters Brothers” starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix — will have already premiered at the Venice or New York film festivals before they are screened in Toronto.
Barack and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series with Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service announced on Monday.
The former first couple have launched Higher Ground Productions to produce a variety of content for the video streamer, possibly including scripted series, documentaries and features.
“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” Obama, who served two terms in the White House from 2009, said in a statement.
“That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix. We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”
The Obamas already have a large social media presence — a combined 150 million followers on Twitter and Instagram — but the deal will see their influence boosted significantly by Netflix’s 125 million subscribers in 190 countries.
“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
The statement didn’t discuss money, but their time in the White House has already begun to reap lucrative dividends for the Obamas, who negotiated book deals last year reportedly worth more than $60 million.
A much-awaited memoir by Michelle Obama is due to be released on November 13, publisher Penguin Random House said in February, describing her as “one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era.”
The Obamas met while he was an intern and she his adviser at a Chicago law firm, and they were soon married. She became his closest confidante during his political rise.
Michelle used her influence as one of the world’s most high-profile public figures to advocate for the rights of women and girls and campaigned for Americans to live healthier lives.
The Obamas are not planning to use Netflix to counter President Donald Trump or other conservatives, but will focus instead on “storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” the former first lady said.
The producers of the hit Netflix royal saga “The Crown” apologised Tuesday over the firestorm that erupted after it emerged that Claire Foy was paid less than co-star Matt Smith.
But the statement stopped short of admitting that Foy had been treated unfairly, or of offering to redress the balance with a retrospective bonus for the actress, who played Queen Elizabeth II in the British royal saga.
“We want to apologize to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the centre of a media storm this week through no fault of their own,” the statement from London-based Left Bank Pictures said.
The furore erupted last week when producers admitted that Smith, who plays the queen’s husband Prince Philip, negotiated a better deal than Foy because of his perceived higher profile.
They did not reveal either salary — Foy’s was put at $40,000 an episode by Variety last year — but told a panel event in Jerusalem that Smith’s 2010-2013 starring role on the BBC’s “Doctor Who” had been the decisive factor.
The explanation has not appeased critics who argued that the discrepancy should only have shown up in the first season, before Foy was garlanded with acclaim.
The part has earned the 33-year-old British actress a host of award season nominations, including at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Emmys and Screen Actors Guild awards. She has won two SAGs and a Globe.
An online petition even called on Smith to donate the difference accumulated over two years.
“As the producers of ‘The Crown,’ we at Left Bank Pictures are responsible for budgets and salaries; the actors are not aware of who gets what, and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues.”
Suzanne Mackie, one of the show’s producers, said the discrepancy was being resolved for the third season but that will not benefit Foy.
“The Crown,” which costs $7 million an episode to produce, is replacing its leads for the start of filming in July, with Olivia Colman stepping in as the queen and an actor to replace Smith not yet announced.
“We understand and appreciate the conversation which is rightly being played out across society and we are absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias, and for a re-balancing of the industry’s treatment of women, both those in front of the camera and for those behind the scenes,” Left Bank said.
“We all have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that these issues are tackled, and as a leading production company we want to make our contribution to the debate.”