With the Netflix South Africa launch euphoria wearing off, early adopters have noticed the discrepancies between the local and US Netflix catalogues.
Among the items missing from Netflix’s South African line-up are its hit shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
The smaller library of content was expected, though – don’t say we didn’t warn you – and is less of a problem than the fact that the SA version is priced in US dollars.
Paying the same price for access to a smaller video catalogue is a bitter pill to swallow, and you could argue that South Africans are incentivised to use unblocking services to access the US Netflix service instead.
The problem: regional licensing
The reason for the discrepancies in Netflix’s offerings between SA and the US generally boils down to regional licensing complications.
In the case of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix said that when it took steps to create its own movies and series, it was a calculated risk.
It wasn’t sure whether making its own content would work, and so it produced its first original shows in partnership with other companies.
For House of Cards it worked with Sony, and Sony handles all the licensing.
This means Netflix had to buy the rights to its early originals on a per-region basis. Territories that it did not pick up the rights for could be sold to other distributors.
Since Sony sold the South African broadcast rights for House of Cards to MultiChoice, this means that Netflix SA will not be able to stream its own show.
A similar restriction applies to Orange is the New Black.
MultiChoice will be offered the first opportunity to renew its licences for the shows when they come up for renegotiation.
If MultiChoice decides stop showing House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, Netflix may get the rights back.
These issues only apply to its early originals, Netflix said. It holds the rights to all its newer films and shows, and these will be released simultaneously around the world.