Hollywood in your lounge

Video-streaming service Netflix is working on market innovations in Africa that are expected to bring its blockbuster content to new clients

In a historical office block in the centre of Berlin, rooms had been set up eerily to mimic the sets of some of Netflix’s biggest shows.

In one, snaking papers with climbing roots drawn over them snaked up the wall, a la Stranger Things. In another, barmen made up expertly as fearsome orcs with huge ears from Hollywood legend Will Smith’s new exclusive Netflix film release, Bright, served lethal tequila cocktails.

The global media press launch, held at Metahaus in Berlin recently, gave a bird’s eye view of how the mammoth digital network – now with more than 190 million subscribers – operates.

Bright launches worldwide on Friday and tells the fast-moving story of two cops, Smith and Joel Edgerton, who plays the part of an orc, ensuring that a powerful magic wand stays out of criminal hands. Directed by Suicide Squad’s David Ayer, the futuristic movie manages to complete the Netflix content circle when it comes to true skop, skiet en donner blockbusters. The movie is an important signal from Netflix, which has clearly set its sights on a profitable movie release future.

Maria Ferreras, Vice President of Business Development for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at Netflix, said in an interview that the network was also working harder, particularly in Africa, to get the service picked up by new subscribers.

As it turns 20, the service was collaborating with smart TV producers on an in-built Netflix system, with remote controllers customised to include a dedicated Netflix button for easy TV switching.

It has also started producing mobile servers placed in different regions, which make for faster, higher-quality video streaming.

In Africa, a new agreement with businessman Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet has introduced Kwese Play to the market, an imprint of Kwese TV which will offer Netflix as part of a fibre optic–enabled service. It’s being offered in SA first with a rollout to other African countries underway and offers more than 100 streaming video channels. The Netflix-only option starts at just $10 a month. An agreement with Vodafone is also in place which offers the streaming service to subscribers, along with the option of easy payment plans as part of customers’ mobile cellphone contracts.

“Our intention is to learn more about region and find ways to be more visible to clients and also to give them additional choices around accessibility and ease of access. We’re also looking at improving our algorithms so that compression gets better. Consumers then need less bandwidth to get higher quality, especially on mobile,” Ferreras said.