"Today, you are witnessing the birth of a new global Internet TV network," said Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings at the four-day Consumer Electronics Show (CES) trade fair in 2016. During his keynote presentation, Hastings announced the streaming service's availability in over 190 countries. The company had started initial international rollouts as early as 2010 in Canada, followed by Latin America in 2011, and select territories in Europe throughout 2012 and 2013. But on that day at the CES in Las Vegas, the company--which began as a DVD rental service headquartered in Los Gatos, California--declared its worldwide scope. "Whether you are in Sydney or St. Petersburg, Singapore or Seoul, Santiago or Saskatoon, you now can be part of the Internet TV revolution," he said.
Ramon Lobato, a senior research fellow at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, chooses this global launch announcement as the starting point for his study of the media-services provider, Netflix Nations: The Geography of Digital Distribution (240 pgs., New York University Press, 2019, U.S.$25). While the book discusses Netflix's growth from a simple U.S. media company to an international giant, Lobato is primarily concerned with how that development between 2010 and 2016 has affected discussions around global television and digital distribution. By using the behemoth as a case study, Lobato is able to analyze and query the political and economic implications of streaming services as more and more competitors enter the OTT fray.
Lobato explicitly mentions that Netflix Nations is for "cord-cutting students" and scholars of media and communications. Regardless, it is still relevant to industry executives and TV enthusiasts who are curious to understand the successes and setbacks of Netflix's global strategy, and how that global strategy mirrors the past. As Lobato puts it, "the story of Netflix is not entirely new; indeed, it closely resembles the history of transnational satellite channels expanding into Europe, Latin America, and Asia in the 1990s."
Despite Netflix's profound success in Western countries with rising middle-class populations, Netflix has had to adapt its own efforts of expanding globally by addressing local tastes. This process, Lobato writes, was not dissimilar to the globalization strategies of U.S.-based cable channels. He uses MTV as an example, referring to its "one channel for all" approach, which failed the company, and consequently prompted...