Netflix in the Philippines – A Case for Streaming Services
While we Filipinos have known about the existence of streaming services, such as Netflix, we were never really too keen on it over the past few years. Perhaps it’s because our relatively unrestricted Internet allows us to seek out alternative sources (cough… torrents… cough) for our TV shows and movies, and streaming movies and TV shows are “impractical”, since these require us to tap into our precious not-really-all-that-unlimited Internet each time we want to watch. Unlike say, when we completely download a series or a movie, and the files are in our hard drives forever.
Now that Netflix has officially landed on our shores however, I would like to make a case on how streaming services are actually a great source of entertainment, and that we don’t have to be limited by our snail-paced Internet connection to enjoy the future of television.
This comes from someone who has been a Netflix subscriber since Netflix had their soft launch in the country around four months ago, and a previous user of a free ad-based streaming service called Crackle since 2010 via Xbox Live (at least, until they blocked the service from Philippine IP addresses in 2013 — it was fun while it lasted); as well as based off the information that I learned when our humble little website was invited to Netflix’s recent official Philippine launch event.
Giving credit to where it’s due
Whenever we watch a show that we just downloaded off of our usual sources, those who were involved in making the show get squat. Heavy pirating contributed to the demise of some amazing TV shows (Hannibal being the most high-profile casualty, as per its producer). When shows are watched legally on its original TV airings, or on legal streaming channels (who pay for rights to stream them), credit is given to where it is due. The show makes money, allowing the producers to continuously make more episodes.
Currently, the Netflix library has thousands of shows and movies all accessible to its paying subscribers, and it could only grow if we Filipinos support the service, and they see that it is a profitable market to serve.
Streamed TV shows give us the real definition of on-demand viewing. Unlike traditional TV, wherein we always have to wait for a week to get to the next episode, streaming TV makes the entire season available as soon as it is available on their library. If there’s a cliffhanger and you really really need to know what happens next (y’all know dat feel, bruh), just go to the next one and there it is.
Netflix, specifically, has another feature that’s especially made for binge-watchers: when an episode ends and the credits are rolling, it already super-imposes a preview of the next episode with a very tempting “Play Next Episode” button right beside it.
Adapted for Philippine Internet speeds
This is arguably the biggest restriction for people when streaming shows. After all, how can shows be watchable given the horrid state of our Internet speeds? Surprisingly, based on my own personal experience, a 3Mbps connection is enough to continuously watch in High Definition. As long as nobody suddenly downloads a huge file while you’re watching, it’s all good.
I wouldn’t be able to say the same for other streaming services, but Netflix engineers are always hard at work in making their service more accessible to customers worldwide. One of the technologies that they have implemented is Adaptive Streaming, which automatically adjusts video quality should the connection speed slow down (a common occurrence here).
“Yes, we understand that watching in HD then suddenly switching to SD or lower is a bit irritating,” said Netflix Asia Regional Corporate Communications Director Jessica Lee. “But Netflix is all about the flow of the story. It’s better to watch a continuous story in slightly lower quality than for the show to stop and wait to buffer,” she further explained.
Jessica also described Netflix’s Mobile mode, which compresses videos for use in mobile phones without much loss in quality. “An entire episode is a large file, and will take up a lot of your data allocation when watching it via mobile,” Jessica said.”We recognize that so we found a way to reduce the file sizes when streaming via mobile data,” she continued.
Original content and creative control
Aside from the library of shows and movies from different production outfits and/or networks, Netflix has released some amazing Original series that are definitely worth the price of admission.
Everyone knows House of Cards (the first Netflix original series), the amazing Marvel TV shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and other upcoming series such as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Defenders. I, personally, am a big fan of other Netflix originals such as The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange is the New Black, and the exhilarating docu-series Making A Murderer.
At the Netflix launch, it was interesting to learn how producers of original series are given total creative control of their shows. “Unlike network TV, [Netflix] gives them all the freedom they need,” said Jenny McCabe, Netflix Global Media Relations Director. “Which is why most of our originals don’t have a strict runtime per episode. We treat them like chapters in a book. If a long chapter helps with the storytelling, it’s not a problem,” she continued.
They also mentioned that Netflix has a team that scours the world for any interesting shows that they can help develop. So when asked about the possibility of Netflix producing a Filipino original series, they replied that ‘possibilities are endless.’
The Future of TV
As someone who jumped onto the Netflix bandwagon early on, I can definitely say that getting a subscription (I’m subscribed to the Php 460/month package which allows me to view simultaneously on two devices in HD) is worth it. I didn’t even need to upgrade my 3Mbps connection to be able to watch on my SmartTV, my PS3, my PC, or my Xbox 360 (Netflix is available on A LOT of devices). Being able to watch the shows I want, when I want it, and sitting through them for as long as I want is an amazing perk to enjoy.
I hope to see the service grow more in the Philippines, and I’m very excited at the possibility of seeing some of our local producers be able to contribute something to its library.