Netflix Strives For World Domination With Global Launch

By Jennifer Van Grove The San Diego Union-Tribune.

LAS VEGAS

Netflix's ambitions to take over the world of television were cemented Wednesday at CES in Las Vegas with the announcement that the streaming service is now available in nearly country except for China.

"When we started the company 20 years ago, we dreamed of the day when the Internet would have enabled us to deliver TV shows and movies to the billions of people with whom we share the planet," said Reed Hastings, Netflix chief executive, during the company's keynote address. "While we have been on stage, we switched Netflix on in Azerbaijan, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and 130 new countries."

The news marks an important international step forward for the service, which was previously available in 60 countries. The widespread availability should help Netflix massively boost audience numbers, currently totaling more than 70 million homes.

Wall Street was more than a little encouraged by the aggressive expansion and bolstered the stock by more than 9 percent following the announcement.

During the keynote address, Netflix cycled through the history of television and painted a picture of a future of entertainment that is anything but linear. Though company executives where careful not to disparage cable companies or more traditional content creators, Netflix wasn't shy about its ambitions. The company believes that it, along with global adoption of the Internet, has irrevocably changed television, removing the limitations imposed by a programming schedule that favors corporations over consumers.

"We live in an on-demand world and there's no going back," Hastings said.

To prove his point, the Netflix chief touted the company's latest streaming figures. Netflix, said Hastings, streamed 12 billion hours of content during the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 8 1/2 billion hours in the same period one year ago.

The company also believes its growing popularity can help curb content piracy.

"We're not anti-theater, we're just pro movies," said Ted Sarandos, who heads content acquisition efforts for Netflix. "We think giving people what they want, in a timely manner, at a reasonable price is great for the industry."

Netflix's keynote address also centered around giving customers access to a growing catalog of original content options spanning a variety of genres. The company gave audience members a first look at two new series slated for 2016 release: "The Crown" and "The Get Down." Comedian Chelsea Handler was also present to discuss her upcoming special, "Chelsea Does," premiering at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

Handler's brash and uncensored persona underscored Netflix's new mantra of throwing out the television rule book.

"With linear TV, they hope that whatever they're showing attracts enough viewers," Sarandos said. "We can take more risk. They score with home runs. We score with home runs, singles, doubles and triples."

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