Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is continuing its international expansion with a long-expected launch into Japan that will take place in the fall of 2015. But its big surprise this week was an announcement that it is now streaming into Cuba, an entry made possible by the Obama administration's move to normalize relations with the country.
Cuba is a curious choice for Netflix. Less than 5 percent of Cuba's population can access the Internet, a Quartz story noted. And the cost of a Netflix subscription, at US $8, will likely be prohibitive for most. (Although a few are surfing faster and more affordably through the underground Snet.) So why make the move? It's likely because, with Cuban officials promising they'll improve Internet access, Netflix can boast that it was the first streaming service in the island nation.
Netflix could not say exactly what content will be available to Cubans, telling FierceOnlineVideo that content shown depends on licensing rights per territory. But it's clear that the SVOD provider wants to make some of Cuba's content available to subscribers in other countries.
"Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience of over 57 million members," Reed Hastings, Netflix's CEO, said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, Netflix plans to open a regional office in Tokyo to support its streaming launch there. Streaming chief Gregory Peters has been promoted to general manager of Netflix Japan, where he'll help develop "close partnerships with consumer electronics makers and to work with Japanese film and TV creators" as the provider puts together a lineup of Japanese series and movies.
Netflix intends to complete its global rollout by 2016. It's currently streaming in 50 countries and has about 57 million subscribers worldwide.
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