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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Netflix Launches in Canada

Netflix, the world’s largest online video streaming subscription service, made its Canadian debut on September 22. Due to content and bandwidth limitations, this service stands to be supplemental rather than threatening to DVD and Blu-ray library collections.

Availability of Content
While libraries are able to circulate DVDs and Blu-rays on their actual street dates, new releases from several major studios debut on Netflix two to three months after they physically appear on video store shelves. Additionally, Netflix’s Canadian database offers a limited selection— just over 7,000 English-spoken titles. The majority of these titles are television shows, documentaries, older movies, and limited release art films.

The lack of content so far can be attributed to strict and complex licencing requirements. Netflix doesn’t own the movies they stream; rather, they licence them from studios, authors, musicians, writers, and directors. And even though Netflix may have acquired more substantial content rights in the United States, these rights do not transfer to Canada. Online media distributors, including Netflix, must acquire Canadian licencing from broadcast rights holders.1

Even though Netflix provides streaming video on-demand, it may be a challenge for patrons to find videos they want to see. Therefore, libraries can expect their patrons to continue to rely on their local branch’s DVD and Blu-ray circulations for new releases and titles that have yet to be licensed by Netflix.

Bandwidth Limitations
In addition to content issues, Canadian Netflix subscribers also face bandwidth limitations. Internet providers in Canada enforce bandwidth caps that restrict the amount of data a user can transfer throughout the month. For example, high-speed internet provider Rogers offers plans that range from 2 gigabytes a month to 175 gigabytes.2 However, an average HD movie consumes 2 gigabytes of bandwidth per hour while one hour of normal video uses 1 gigabyte per hour.3 Therefore, a Netflix subscriber could easily surpass his or her monthly allotment of bandwidth by watching just a couple of movies a week, depending on their plan.

Bandwidth overages can result in charges anywhere from $.50 to $5.00 for each additional gigabyte used.2 Consequently, for some users Netflix may end up costing significantly more than the initial $7.99 a month. Because of this, many library patrons will continue to use the free services provided by libraries rather than streaming services, especially in today’s uncertain economy.

In conclusion, while Netflix offers an additional entertainment option for Canadian audiences, there are significant drawbacks to the new service, specifically limited content and restricted bandwidth—which can greatly affect total cost for the consumer. Thus, libraries and the quality DVD collections they provide will continue to serve as a valuable resource for their communities.

What do you think of Netflix’s presence in Canada? Have your patrons provided any feedback? Do you foresee Netflix having any affect on circulation or patron base? Share your thoughts here as comments.




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