American entertainment has forever been transformed by online video. Gone are the days of the entire family gathering around to watch Ed Sullivan. Today, people are tuning into Hulu, Netflix and the like to watch the latest episodes on their own schedules, streamed to their tablets and connected TVs.
This is far from an American phenomenon, however. The Internet has changed entertainment everywhere. We traverse the online video space far and wide to find noteworthy TV Everywhere players in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Europe: Netflix, Lovefilm, BSkyB
In the UK, 36.2 percent of adults watched content on their computers and mobile devices at the end of 2011, a 5.1 percent increase from the year prior. That number will likely increase, with Netflix expanding to the UK and Ireland in January. The streaming company will now take on Amazon's UK-based Lovefilm, which has about 1.5 million subscribers in the UK and another 500,000 in four other European countries. Both companies revealed unlimited online streaming packages this month, with Netflix charging £5.99 (US$9.24) per month and Amazon billing £4.99 (US$7.69). BSkyB also announced it was throwing its hat in the streaming ring, as it gears up its own service that will include its entertainment portfolio, such as Sky Movies and Sky Sports. Hulu, on the other hand, has faced more difficulty entering the UK. The chief executive of RTL, Europe's biggest free TV group, said this is because broadcasters won't do deals with content aggregators who want to control advertising.
Latin America: Netflix, TV 360
Latin America faces many challenges to TV Everywhere success: relatively low device penetration, high rates of piracy, varying title preferences and low credit card usage, according to a letter from Netflix to its shareholders. Yet many continue to invest in the region. Since Netflix’s launch in the area, the streaming giant has doubled its content library, adding more U.S. and local movies and TV as well as subtitles and dubs in Spanish and Portuguese. Aside from Netflix, a number of broadcasters have banded together to provide another TV Everywhere alternative. Dubbed TV 360, the joint effort, first announced in early 2011, would bring together producers, content aggregators, pay TV operators and service providers, offering video-on-demand and live video with varying business models. The initiative would be the most comprehensive online-viewing experience in Latin America.
If it's not apparent from the examples we cited in Europe and Latin America, a lot of people are vying for the title of "Netflix of [insert region]." Case in point: iRoko, which has the exclusive rights to distribute all Nollywood (think: Nigeria's Hollywood) movies online. Currently, the service is free, but parent company iRoko Partners might levy a subscription fee beginning June of this year for those who want to watch ad-free. The NollywoodLove channel on YouTube has brought in about $1 million in revenue, mostly from advertising. The channel has a viewership of more than 1.2 million each month. But there's one major challenge ahead of iRoko to be the Netflix of Africa: the lack of infrastructure and broadband connectivity. It appears 90 percent of NollywoodLove’s traffic comes from outside Africa: the European Union, North America, the Caribbean and Middle East.
Asia: Netflix, CinemaNOW, Hulu
Home to some of the world's fastest broadband speeds, Asia has great potential for online video. Netflix is mulling expanding to South Korea and Japan, two of the top three countries with the fastest Internet connections in the world. It's not just Netflix that's eyeing Japan. CinemaNOW's video-on-demand subscription services expanded to the country in 2005, with licensing from Warner Bros. International Television. The company's subscription service allows users to download unlimited movies, letting them watch whenever and wherever they want, so long as their subscriptions are still valid. Hulu's launch in Japan last summer also marked the publisher's first international expansion.