Transnational over-the-top media distribution as a business and policy disruptor: The case of Netflix in Canada
Digital disruption is often characterized as the conflict between the exponential rate of change in technology, and the slower-paced, incremental rate of change in law, economy, policy, and society writ-large (Franklin, 2012). The rapid encroachment of over-the-top (OTT) content distribution raises policy issues concerning jurisdiction, access, pricing, consolidation of ownership, and source diversity (Holt, 2014), while undermining many of the traditional policy instruments. In this paper, we analyze Netflix’s strategic expansion and meteoric growth in Canada, and focus on a landmark event in Canadian broadcasting policymaking: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) “Let’s Talk TV” hearings of 2013-2014. Through an examination of public documents, we analyze the ways Netflix is considered an opportunity, ally, or a threat by consumers, broadcasters, independent producers, and governments. We show that in a reprioritization of values, many of the principles that motivated legacy broadcasting policy are being sidelined by a consumerist approach that gives freer rein to streamed services. However, Netflix’s refusal to provide the Commission with information it was ordered to produce suggests the most serious disruption is to the notion that online video distribution can or should be regulated in the public interest.
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