IMAGE: Gregor Fischer TEXT: El Mundo

Speaking to a Spanish newspaper following Netflix’ announcement that it will launch in Spain this October, Reed Hastings, the company’s co-founder and CEO, dismissed the high rate of piracy in Spain, saying the public here is now used to viewing content on the Internet, and that Netflix will provide a simpler and immediate alternative.

“Similar piracy concerns existed in the Netherlands and Canada, and in each case Netflix has become successful,” said Reed, adding: “We can think of this like the bottled water business. Tap water can be drunk and is free, but there is still a public that demands bottled water.”

So can we now all please accept that downloading was not a problem, but an opportunity? People began downloading movies as soon as technology provided the means to do so, the fact that the entertainment industry took so long to catch up is another question. Fifteen years on, some in that industry are still protesting and calling for tougher legislation and refusing to adapt to the real world: if it takes a company that long to come to terms with change, it should really be asking itself whether it’s time to throw in the towel or seek some kind of therapy to protect yourself from your own self-destructive urges.

As Reed has pointed out on many occasions, downloads are not the problem and never were. It is precisely thanks to downloads that we learned how to watch movies and television series in different ways. We learned to watch what we wanted, when we wanted, in the language we wanted, and free from the dictates of the industry. We learned that the rules are not written in stone and can and must be rewritten with each innovation that comes along.

How often have we heard that “home recording is killing music,” or “the movie industry will die at this rate”, and “this is unsustainable”, or that nobody would invest in big budget productions because they would never get their money back? The simple truth was that all that was needed was for somebody to come along and offer movies and television series on terms that could compete with the downloads. Instead, all we heard was: “You can’t compete with something that’s free,” and more demands for tougher legislation. And politicians fell into line, either because they were corrupt or stupid, or both, and bent over backwards to give the movie industry the laws it wanted. We saw judges coerced, and we saw attempts to impose tougher punishments for downloading a movie than for rape or mugging somebody.

And now here we are, more than fifteen years on from Napster, with a whole raft of stupid, worthless laws that need to be erased as soon as possible, and Netflix about to enter the Spanish market, unconcerned about downloads.

Netflix has never been concerned about downloading in any of the markets it operates in. All that stuff about Netflix not wanting to come to Spain because nobody in this country is prepared to pay for content was a big, fat lie. Netflix knows what the situation in this country is, is prepared to compete by offering a better product, and knows that people will pay eight euros a month for it. All anybody had to do was put themselves in the position of the users and try to see why people were doing what they were doing. Instead of focusing on the negative and insulting the Spanish, pointing to their criminal nature, Netflix understands that people just want to be able to make their own choices about what, when, and where they watch movies.

Netflix will be here in October, albeit with less content than in some other countries, and without some of their own series because contracts with other services in Spain have not yet expired. Even so, I bet it will be a huge success.

There: that wasn’t so hard, was it?

(En español, aquí)