Singapore to get 'curated' Netflix experience

Couch potatoes and TV junkies, it's time to rejoice.

Netflix is finally coming to town.

The popular US online streaming service will be launched in Singapore early next year and will open an office here in the coming months.

It will also expand into South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, after its launch in Japan last Wednesday with monthly plans starting from 650 yen (S$7.60).

Established in 1997, it has reeled in paid subscribers worldwide with its impressive database of movies and dramas, including original series like Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards.

For Singapore subscribers, Netflix promises a "curated selection" on "nearly any Internet-connected screen", like smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, computers and a range of Internet-capable game consoles and set-top boxes, according to its press release.

Details on pricing, programming and supported devices here will be available at a later date.

But is "curated selection" merely a code for heavily condensed choices?

Netflix did not provide further details when contacted by The New Paper on what titles will be available and how much of it will be edited.

A Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesman told TNP that it "welcomes" Netflix's expansion to Singapore as "it will inject greater vibrancy into our media sector and provide viewers with more choices".

MDA added that it "will work with Netflix to familiarise them with Singapore's regulations and media capabilities ahead of their arrival".


Ms Angela Chee, a senior lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic's School of Business (Communications and Media Management), believes that there will be a certain level of censorship to eliminate profanity, violence, nudity, sexual content and so on.

"Netflix will have to bear in mind the diverse racial profile here and curate their content accordingly instead of focusing solely on US TV shows and movies," she said.

TV producer and editor Rachel Monkman, 26, is concerned that the content might differ from what is offered overseas.

But she still feels the introduction of Netflix may at least encourage users to obtain content legally.

She told TNP: "I think fewer people will depend on pirate sites if they know they can stay current with their TV shows (with Netflix)."

Netflix is the latest in a slew of readily available options for Singapore viewers to easily consume foreign TV and film content.

Last Thursday, Internet service provider ViewQwest started selling a new virtual private network (VPN) set-top box that lets uers forgo the hassle of changing their computer and router settings to stream overseas content uncensored.

This can be done by using pre-installed Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go or BBC iPlayer apps once the box is plugged to the television and the Internet modem.

Its TV 4K set-top box costs $299 and consumers have to pay $10.70 a month to continue to use its VPN service after the first year.

The Straits Times reported that more than 50 per cent of the Internet traffic on ViewQwest's broadband network is from users accessing Netflix content.

Given that illegal downloading of shows for free is still a rampant practice, Ms Chee is not sure if people will pay for the content.

Said Ms Chee: "Anyone can obtain anything they want online. So (Netflix's) pricing strategy has to be competitive enough for people to part with their money."

This article was first published on Sept 10, 2015.
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