Netflix launches service in Canada
TORONTO – Netflix, the popular online movie and TV rental company, has launched its all-you-can-watch entertainment service in Canada.
The service went live Wednesday morning, offering Canadians with broadband Internet connections unlimited access to a catalogue of thousands of mostly second-run movies and TV shows for $7.99 a month.
It’s the first time Netflix has been offered outside of the U.S.
The on-demand films and TV episodes can be streamed directly to computer screens, iPhones and iPads, or viewed on TVs connected to certain models of Blu-ray disc players and home video game consoles.
The $7.99 monthly fee covers an unlimited amount of viewing, restricted only by customers’ Internet data transfer allowances.
At a press conference in Toronto Wednesday, California-based Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said his company’s service isn’t a direct competitor to broadcast television or cable services, as most of the content on Netflix is not brand new.
And unlike the U.S., Netflix will not offer DVD rental by mail in Canada.
“We don’t have sports, we don’t have the vast majority of programming they have,” Hastings said when comparing Netflix to traditional TV.
The service will offer seasons one through three of the popular drama Mad Men, for example, but not the current season. HBO shows are not available on Netflix, and movies in the service’s easy-to-browse online listings are for the most part several months or years old.
But Hastings said Netflix’s strengths are its low cost and the variety of content available, ranging from The Trailer Park Boys to SpongeBob SquarePants to Oscar-winning flicks such as Slumdog Millionaire and A Beautiful Mind.
Hastings said the resolution of the streaming video image will depend on the device it’s being viewed on and the speed of the connection, with high-definition video available for some programming.
The launch was dealt a public relations black eye when reporters discovered that extras had been hired to pose as members of the public, and were instructed to appear excited while checking out street displays demonstrating the Netflix service.
Word of the ruse lit up social media sites, leading Netflix to issue apologies and clarifications. “Some extras were hired for a corporate video shoot earlier in the day, taking advantage of the launch event to tape some promotional footage for our own use,” Ken Ross, Netflix’s vice president of corporate communications, told QMI Agency. “Some of the extras were still around when the press briefing let out across the street.”
The extras had been told to appear enthusiastic about Netflix if interviewed by the media, which Netflix admits was a mistake. “At the time, I wasn’t aware that such instructions had been handed out to the extras, and that should not have happened,” Ross said.
“There were two separate events – the press briefing and the video shoot – and it seems things got a bit mixed up.”
When Netflix announced in July its plans to expand into Canada, Rogers reduced download data caps on some of the company’s Internet packages, seen by some as a move to thwart Netflix as a potential competitor its cable TV and movie rental services.
Watching Netflix consumes roughly one gigabyte of Internet data per hour of content, meaning a home with a $36-per-month Rogers Lite Internet package would max out its monthly data transfer allowance after only 15 hours of viewing, not including any other Internet use.
Internet providers like Rogers, Bell and Telus “need to establish more realistic rate structures that anticipate the kinds of services, like video on demand, that consumers will increasingly use in years to come,” said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy.
“As it stands, it’s a recipe for disgruntled consumers and stunted-at-birth services.”
A full listing of the devices that Netflix can be viewed on is available at www.netflix.ca.
The company is currently offering Canadians a one-month free trial of the service.
Netflix launches service in Canada