Netflix Launches in the UK and Ireland, Faces Significant Challenges

The popular American media streaming service, Netflix, has today arrived in the UK and Ireland with subscriptions available for £5.99 (or €6.99) per month, with the first month free.

In my eyes, Netflix's expansion is immediately reminiscent of Spotify's leap across the Atlantic last year -- a move that proved valuable for the music streaming startup. Spotify's move, however, should not be viewed as a tacit endorsement of Netflix's prospects.

The UK and Ireland, in my experience, boast relatively inconsistent Internet infrastructures. Flawless connections are a notably rare breed, thus rendering such a connection intensive service vulnerable to customer dissatisfaction, negative reviews, and an accordingly stifled audience.

Moreover, the customers willing to pay for a streaming service have had many options at their disposal for quite some time. LoveFilm, now an Amazon subsidiary, is well-established on many major hardware devices, including media staples like the Xbox 360 and PS3. Other competitors are also present, with the BBC, Sky, and many channels offering streaming services -- services that are also readily available on many popular devices.

Simply put, the landscape significantly differs from that of the US and Canada, and that is likely to pose problems for Netflix's established methodology.

Furthermore, given its recent and varied PR crises, Netflix is not in a position to market flawless credibility to a new market. Spotify was near unilaterally praised in Europe prior to its American launch and the hype for its crossing of the Atlantic was palpable. As a result, Spotify was able to achieve a positive entrance and subscriber base despite pre-existing opposition from Rdio and MOG. 

Netflix's arrival in Europe bears only a fleeting resemblance (in a contextual sense) to Spotify's entrance in the US, and that may well prove problematic.

Although I've repeatedly recorded my positive sentiments toward Netflix, I fear this move may not initially prove as fruitful as Netflix may have foreseen.

Having said that, I'd love to be proven wrong. Streaming media is the future, and markets must modernize accordingly. If Netflix, in conjunction with its newfound European competitors, can encourage competition and progress in the field, then more power to them.