This post was written by Daphne Rena Idiz as part of the GDC-funded project “Cultural Diversity in the Age of Global Digital Media: the Case of Netflix in the Netherlands”.
In 2018, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the multinational video-on-demand (VOD) company was “committed to being a voice for European entertainment […] and offering consumers around the world unique and diverse stories.” This announcement from Netflix came as European Union (EU) policymakers were in the midst of completing a revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), a directive which governs EU legislative frameworks for media.
One of the key objectives of the revised AVMSD, which was transposed nationally by EU Member States in 2020, is to protect and promote European cultural diversity in the media by holding VOD services to rules that previously only applied to television (TV) broadcasters. These new provisions, under Article 13, are threefold:
- VOD services (such as Netflix) need to reach a 30% quota of European works on their catalogues;
- The European works must be given prominence; and
- EU Member States may impose investment obligations on VOD services in order to stimulate local production industries (e.g. through financial contributions into the production of European content or national funds).
These provisions are founded on two assumptions, which our research project aims to investigate. First, that policy measures designed for broadcast TV (with linear schedules) are effective when applied to VOD (with nonlinear catalogues). And second, that implementing content quotas and prominence of European works actually stimulates local content production and exposes consumers to these works on a nonlinear and personalized VOD catalogue, such as Netflix’s.
Our Research Objectives
Our project focuses on Netflix in the Netherlands as a case study. Netflix’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa headquarters are located in Amsterdam, meaning Netflix falls under the jurisdiction of the Dutch Media Authority, as per the AVMSD. The way the Netherlands implements and enforces the AVMSD therefore has direct implications for the rest of the EU.
We have conducted a series of semi-structured qualitative interviews with relevant stakeholders, including Netflix, the Dutch Media Authority, organizations representing Dutch content producers, the Netherlands Film Fund, and a Dutch public broadcaster. From these interviews, we are seeking to provide insights into the impact of the AVMSD on local content producers, the relationship between global VOD platforms and local broadcasters/organizations, and the challenges of accountability (i.e. how will quotas/prominence/investments be measured and enforced). In addition, we are tracking Netflix’s Top 10 daily rankings in the Netherlands over the course of two months and analyzing this dataset to monitor the proportion of European works and related viewing patterns.
Sarandos’ quote (cited above) continues as follows: “[…] offering consumers […] stories they can discover and enjoy, anywhere, anytime and at the same time, no matter their place or language of origin [emphasis added].” These very characteristics differentiate Netflix from linear broadcast TV and allow it to provide a large and constantly evolving catalogue of content, in a highly personalized and algorithm-driven way, to its global users (which, at the time of writing, includes 204 million paid memberships in over 190 countries). The manifold ways in which this affects local media industries provides a unique snapshot of how globalization and digitization complicate and transform cultural practices.
Daphne Idiz is a Ph.D. candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. Her research focuses on the transformations occurring to European cultural production practices resulting from the expansion of global streaming services.
Kristina Irion is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Information Law. Her research focuses on the governance of transnational digital technologies and global data value chains from the perspective of European law and international economic law.
Joris Ebbers is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Amsterdam Business School. His research interests include entrepreneurship, social networks, and organization.
Rens Vliegenthart is a Professor for Media and Society and the scientific director at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research. His research focuses on the production and effects of media content.