Netflix continues its dominance of the U.S. market, finally surpassing cable in terms of subscribers and winning over the influential millennial generation who are now the most coveted demographic in the tech industry. While many companies would be content to rest on their laurels with such accomplishments behind them, Netflix (and its investors) have their eyes set on the global streaming market. Just in the past year, Netflix has been busy hiring multi-lingual translators, buying up original foreign content, opening up a new state-of-the-art support facility in Europe, and has even made some inroads breaking into the notoriously walled-off Chinese media market. Even Amazon Prime has opened up new European channels in several countries. While many international consumers are likely delighted at Netflix’s expansion, a group of Italian and French broadcasters are not and are joining forces in an attempt to combat the unstoppable march of American streaming services.
Two of the largest broadcasting firms in Europe, France Televisions and Italy’s RAI group, have made a commitment to boost their English-language streaming offerings to try and rival the growing presence of American streaming services on the continent. At a press conference in Rome this week, France Televisions’ managing director Xavier Couture says that he and his partners are seeking to attract more broadcasting groups from other nations to form an anti-American streaming bloc that will protect and preserve European culture:
These players from the U.S., such as Netflix and Amazon, are very powerful, and they all have stories to tell that are not our own. But Europe is the most powerful cultural region in the world. We can counter them together. We are the first [members] of a big family that must be the European family of cultural television.
The agreement is still in its infancy and it remains unclear exactly how such a partnership might work. Variety reports that a few joint projects are already underway, such as a documentary about Pompeii, a Mafia-themed drama series, and a French animation series.
This announcement comes swiftly on the heels of several developments which demonstrate Netflix’s growing European presence. Earlier this year, the European Union drafted new legislation which opened up access to Netflix’s content regardless of one’s home country. More recently, Netflix drew the ire of the French cinema industry when it submitted two films to the Cannes Film Festival in the face of stiff criticism.
While some outlets are raising alarm over such anti-American sentiments, resistance to American cultural dominance is nothing new. While it is important for nations and cultures to retain their identity in the age of globalization and the internet, market forces are ultimately responsible for American streaming services’ European growth; consumers will tend to pay for the best product regardless of which country made it. If France and Italy want to combat Netflix and Amazon’s dominance, they better start producing series which can rival Stranger Things or Transparent. All I have to say is “Bonne chance!” and “In bocca al lupo!”