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Netflix subscriber numbers rise but it faces “poaching” lawsuit from Viacom


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New to Netflix Originals, it’s The Good & The Bad Place… that’s where the subscription TV- and movie-streaming service finds itself this week. It now has 137m subscribers globally, growing by 7m in the three months to September. This was above projections and the company’s biggest quarterly growth to date. Revenue in the quarter grew 34% year-on-year to around $4bn and profits tripled to $403m. Cue inevitable comparisons with the growth of Spotify, Apple Music etc. and think pieces about “What [X music service] can learn from Netflix”. Except, well, they are very different consumer propositions, the price point is significantly lower and there’s the little matter of Netflix spending an estimated $8bn on original programming this year.

Delightful as they are, backing an Ed Sheeran documentary or filming Paul McCartney doing a gig at Abbey Road is not quite on the same level as an $8bn investment in new programming. Contextual point: the entire global recording industry was worth $17.3bn last year. Netflix will pump almost half of that into original programming this year. Yes, there are vague lessons to be learned here, but really those apples and oranges have never looked so different.

However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows at Netflix as we move into The Bad Place (or, to switch programmes, The Upside Down). Netflix is facing a lawsuit from Viacom, with the latter claiming the former induced a Viacom employee to break their contact and defect to them. This is not an isolated incident and Netflix is facing similar accusations from 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, but Netflix is countersuing in this instance, claiming 20th Century Fox is bullying employees into “take it or leave it” deals. There’s some powerful industrial espionage brewing here and maybe some of that $8bn could be spent on dramatising it…

Eamonn Forde

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