Feeling left out and ignored by Netflix Canada?
Cheer up. It may not be as bad as it seems.
Previously unpublished data provided to the Toronto Star confirms the widely held suspicion that there is far more variety for Netflix viewers in the U.S. than in Canada.
Canadian Netflix subscribers can only view half of the movie and television titles available to Americans on the online streaming service.
But the data, which Netflix refuses to officially release, also suggests the Canadian list includes more hits and fewer stinkers.
The data was provided to the Star by Netflixable, a website offering a country by country periscope into 20 regions covered by the worldwide streaming service.
It shows that Canadian viewers can watch some hits that aren’t available south of the border, including Blue Jasmine (2013), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Black Swan (2010) and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 (2012).
“The Netflix U.S. and Netflix Canada services are treated differently by the company,” said Michael Geist, a Star columnist and research chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.
“The Netflix U.S. is focused on adding more choice with curation on subscriber interest coming later (i.e. make content available and determine whether to continue to offer based on interest),” Geist said in an email.
Some of the American titles that aren’t available here include non-Oscar winners Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) and Vibrator (2003).
“The Canadian service — much like the other international services — is more curated from the start with the company trying to identify content of interest to the local market before it appears on the service,” Geist said.
“A lot of people who have never done this make the assumption that the United States Netflix is the best,” Josh Loewen, founder, owner and CEO of Netflixable, said in an interview.
“Their number might be the highest, but the quality of the titles (matters). There is no best,” Loewen said. “Canada’s got some great stuff that’s exclusive to us.”
Geist said there’s another theory for the leaner Canadian playlist.
“The cynical view is that Netflix doesn’t need to create a larger library for Canada since many Canadians know how to access the U.S. service,” Geist said. “That means Netflix pays for U.S. rights, but knows that others may find ways to access the content (and will subscribe on that basis).”
For its part, Netflix spokesperson Kiel Hume said the company does not release such data.
“It’s not a static service,” Hume said in an interview. “It’s always changing. It’s dynamic. There’s always titles coming on, titles going off. That’s just one of the reasons that they don’t share lists of content that’s available.”
The data provided to the Star is up to date as of Jan. 15, 2015. A computer program built by Loewen automatically checks on a daily basis Netflix’s public websites to record the titles available in each of the 20 regions.
The data shows that American viewers had a choice of 7,202 titles, the most in the world, followed by Canada in second place at 3,663.
Brazil follows at 2,040; trailed by the United Kingdom, 2,851; and Mexico at 2,838.
There are plenty of reasons for the country-to-country differences, and none of them involve anyone hating us. There are myriad licensing agreements for different areas, broken into a variety of time windows and numerous platforms such as DVD, TV, theatrical release and iTunes.
“The differences are often about different licenses, with the U.S. service benefiting from licenses that cover the U.S., but may not have an international dimension,” Geist said.
“Adding Canada might be easy in some circumstances, but in others there may be different rights holders (i.e. the party holding the rights to the U.S. does not have the international rights), which complicates the matter and makes it more expensive,” Geist said in an email.
That means Netflix buyers could want to air a program for Canada, such as the now-absent comedy series 30 Rock, but can’t sign it up now.
Licenses to broadcast shows in varied regions could expire as program owners seek to sell a show in as many places as possible in pursuit of as much money as possible.
Bigger subscriber lists mean more bargaining clout, which should mean a wider variety of shows.
That seems to be working out, as Netflix’s Canadian offerings have dramatically expanded in the past few years.
In 2012, Canada had 912 titles for viewing, less than a third the 3,022 offerings in the U.S.
That ballooned to 1,950 for Canada in 2013, compared to 5,083 in the U.S.
In 2014, Canada had 3,782 titles, more than half the 7,500 shows in the U.S.
Broken down into a per capita rating, tiny Luxemberg (population 520,672, according to the CIA) comes out on top, with Canada down in 13th spot.
Luxemberg easily has the most titles per person, with 270.07 different shows per 100,000 people, followed by Panama at 72.98 titles per 100,000, Ireland at 61.61, Costa Rica, 58.15 and Norway at 37.86.
Canada lags behind with 10 titles per 100,000 people, the United Kingdom in 15th at 4.45 titles per 100,000 and the U.S. in 17th at 2.0.
Germany’s in 19th spot at 1.74 titles per 100,000.
Canadian Trekkies can take some comfort from the Netflixable findings, as we have exclusive rights to some Star Trek offerings that aren’t available in the U.S., such as Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Generations (1994), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
Brazil has plenty of exclusive content, although it’s heavy on high-drama, steamy telenovelas.