A few minutes ago I was listening to Corey Johnson and Caroline Hyde of Bloomberg Television discussing Netflix’s desire to increase its international markets, hopefully getting U.S. and international subscribership on par with each other. Potential subscribers overseas, particularly on the African continent may not have the income to buy the data services necessary for accommodating the amount of capacity necessary for delivering “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black”, so if they are to try these Netflix offerings, strategic partnerships like zero-rated mobile services may be the answer.
The irony with the zero-rated approach is that internet portals such as Facebook have tried unsuccessfully to offer zero-rating services in India. India regulators told Facebook hell no because such free services, where Facebook and mobile providers would agree that data from Facebook would go to a subscriber’s phone at no charge to data caps, violated net neutrality rules. An irony given that Facebook and Netflix spearheaded a charge for net neutrality rules that would keep Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon in check for throttling, transparency, and other discriminatory practices.
Investors are giving Netflix permission to bleed cash in order to make available the original content necessary for getting into global markets. Although Netflix has signed up more subscribers than expected in the second quarter of 2017, twelve months of burning $2.1 billion in negative cash flow with an expectation of continued negative cash flow in the near future is something Netflix investors may pay attention to more closely. Did Netflix miss an opportunity to signal to regulators around the globe that net neutrality was probably what it was not cut out to be? Maybe at least a “no stance” on the concept would have provided an opportunity to alleviate fears in India and elsewhere that zero-rating was a bad thing, giving Netflix at least another marketing tool for entry into global markets that are making faster use of mobile.