By Ben Tavener, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Netflix, the online movie and TV program streaming service, has launched in Brazil – the first of 43 new countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, as the company looks to add significant numbers to its existing 25 million users.
The service opened in Brazil on September 5th, heralding Netflix’s first push into Latin America. Shortly afterwards, it opened its doors to customers in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, followed more recently by Mexico and a host of countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The California-based company is looking to corner a new audience after an unpopular price-hike in the U.S. left the company with a fifteen-percent slump in its share price, forcing it to slash its forecasts by nearly a million potential subscribers.
However, Rochelle King – VP of User Experience and Design at Netflix – was upbeat about the company’s push into the new market:
“Over the last few months our team has spent countless hours in the region learning as much as we can about how Latin Americans think about, and enjoy, movies and TV shows. We were excited to find out how passionate people in Latin America are about [them].” she wrote on the Netflix Blog.
Netflix will cost R$14.99 a month in Brazil – with one month’s free trial – and will include a range of movies, telenovelas, documentaries and kids’ shows. Programming will be available in English, Portuguese and Spanish – with original and dubbed versions, and optional subtitles.
According to the company, the service can be used on over 450 different devices, including Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and Apple TV – with Xbox 360 and apps for iPhone and iPad “coming soon.”
Unlike its U.S. service, Netflix customers in Brazil will not have the “snail-mail” option of having a DVD or Blu-ray mailed to them.
And the fact that the service in Brazil is more expensive than in the U.S., where the equivalent option costs $8 (R$13.70), has not gone unnoticed by those commenting on Netflix’s Facebook page who are calling for the company to lower prices and expand its selection.
But while most people posting on the page were welcoming the company’s arrival in Latin America with open arms, Netflix will have a fight on its hands with homegrown rival company NetMovies – Brazil’s biggest online media provider – whose equivalent online-only service starts at a cheaper rate of R$9.99 per month.
And even if Netflix manages to clear that hurdle, a question mark still hangs over whether most Brazilians actually have enough bandwidth to use the service. A report in May by Ibope Nielsen Online said that although 42 million Brazilians are now online, only one fifth of them have a connection at or over 500 kilobytes per second – the minimum that Netflix says is needed to stream its content.