Thursday, December 4, 2014

A very specific definition of 'exclusive'

I spend a lot of time on Netflix, but I'm afraid that I often don't do a very good job focusing on the main point. What's important here is not the strengths and weaknesses of the company -- let the day traders do their own research -- but rather the way that the story illustrates so many of the problems in the way the press covers business, particularly the tech sector.

For example, the coverage of "Netflix Originals" shows how persistent a factual error can be if it fits a popular narrative. In this case, the narrative is that Netflix is the next HBO which has lead many journalists covering the story to assume that Netflix is building a content library similar to HBO's. They aren't. Netflix doesn't own shows like House of Cards. They just license it. Anyone who researches the story should know this, but more often than not, you see something like this from Seeking Alpha:
Reed Hastings can now promote Netflix as the only place to see "House of Cards" and other Netflix original series that are gaining momentum, like "Orange is the New Black." These productions will generate millions of new members. One other major benefit is that Netflix owns ALL rights to the shows, and can easily now start offering some kind of service in new markets like Asia.
I've been banging this drum for quite a while, but I have to admit I was surprised to learn how narrow even the streaming rights are.

Apparently, Netflix's rights to exclusive access only cover unlimited streaming options like Amazon Prime. You can still buy episodes online from other sources if you're willing to cough up a couple of bucks.

Is purchasing very limited rights a smart business strategy on the part of Netflix? That's a question for another post.  For now, though, let's just say that this is yet another story where the narrative sometimes obscures the facts.

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