IBC Daily IBC2018 - Day 1 - Friday 14 September - Page 109

109 PARTNERSHIPS AND CONTENT: A STRATEGY FOR GROWTH By Tim Dams Striking deals – and investing in programmes – have paid dividends for Netflix. Maria Ferreras speaks about the strategy T he huge amount of money Netflix is spending on original production – $8 billion in 2018 – is often cited as the reason for its surge in growth. It’s true that the OTT platform’s shrewd and aggressive content strategy has been the key factor in its subscriber numbers hitting 125 million around the world. But Netflix’s growth has also been supported by astute deals that have made the service easily accessible to consumers, via partnerships with consumer electronics firms, telcos and pay-TV firms. These partnership deals ensure that Netflix is a prominent offer on smart TVs, mobiles or pay-TV boxes. As VP business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Netflix, Maria Ferreras is responsible for striking these partnerships across the region. In many ways, her career to date has prepared her well for this role at Netflix – which she joined in April 2017. A Spaniard with a post-graduate degree in marketing from a business school in Madrid, Ferreras also speaks fluent English, French and Italian. Initially, she worked for telco Orange and pan- European web pioneer Lycos Europe, before joining Goog le in 2007. “I was lucky enough to be part of the first YouTube team that was based in Europe,” says Ferreras. She soon started working for Google-owned YouTube, rising to become director of YouTube Partnerships. There she was responsible for creating content partnerships between YouTube and broadcasters and production companies across Mediterranean countries, the Middle East and North Africa. Then, last year, she received a call from Netflix. “I wasn’t planning to leave, because Google is a great company. But Netflix sounded very good and the role was attractive. I was up for a challenge and after ten years I was ready to do something different,” says Ferreras. She has had a busy first year. In the past 12 months, Netflix has renewed and expanded partnership deals with companies such as BT, Orange and Deutsche Telekom. It has also struck new deals with the likes of Sky, OSN and Telefónica. The Sky deal, for example, is a European partnership which sees the pay-TV firm bundle the full Netflix service into a brand-new Sky TV subscription pack available through the Sky Q platform. The deal with leading Middle Eastern pay-TV firm OSN gives its customers access to Netflix content via a new OSN Box – and allows them to pay for their Netflix subscription via one consolidated OSN bill. There have been other deals too, in countries such as Poland, Greece and Israel. For Netflix, the logic of these deals is clear. “When we decided that we weren’t going to have our own box, it was the natural thing to do – we started partnering with set-top boxes and smart TVs.” Ferreras says the deals are all about “making consumers lives easier” by giving them seamless access to Netflix through, for example, the Sky Q box. Deals like the one with OSN, which allow customers to pay for Netflix via one bill, are also important. “In some countries, credit card penetration is not very high so for some people it is very difficult to pay for Netflix,” she notes. Partnership deals have become increasingly important as the Netflix business matures and it seeks to add ever more subscribers. ‘“If you want to watch The Crown or Stranger Things or any of our new shows, the only way to do it is through Netflix. That brings extraordinary value for our partners” “It is a critical path for us,” says Ferreras. “It is very aligned with our strategy to ensure consumption and sign up for Netflix is as easy as possible.” At first sight, the idea of pay-TV companies partnering with a company like Netflix that has so disrupted the broadcasting landscape seems counter-intuitive. Surely Netflix is the enemy? So why are they collaborating in a way that helps Netflix build its subscriber base even further? Ferreras takes a step back and offers a different perspective. “This is a very dynamic ecosystem – so many things are happening.” She points to Netflix’s huge investment in content, an $8 billion spend. Included in this is the $1 billion the company has earmarked for European productions this year – more than double last year. The company is expanding both its English and foreign-language offerings, with new dramas going into production in the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Turkey and the Netherlands. Netflix says it has originated 100 projects from the EMEA region in 2018. That content, says Ferreras, is only available on Netflix as the company doesn’t license any of its original content anywhere else. “If you want to watch The Crown or Stranger Things or any of our new shows, the only way to do it is through Netflix. That brings extraordinary value for our partners.” Ferreras stresses that the deals her team strikes with other companies really are true partnerships. She won’t disclose the terms of any of the deals but says that when they work well “it is going to be much better for both of us”. Looking ahead, Ferreras says her main priority is growing her team and making it more local. Already, she says her team is like the United Nations. And the European offices are growing, she says, pointing out that 200 people now work out of Netflix’s Amsterdam HQ, and 40 in London. Another 400 work in a customer service centre in Amsterdam. Right across Netflix – from content, through to business and marketing – the company is looking for local talent with global appeal, says Ferreras. She points to shows like Money Heist from Spain or The Rain from Denmark as examples of local content that resonates with global audiences. Elsewhere, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes is writing The English Game, about the invention of football, while Idris Elba is producing and starring in a new comedy, Turn Up Charlie. Other Netflix projects include Luna Nera, an Italian genre series about witchcraft, and The Wave, which is Netflix’s third original series from Germany. Programmes like this are also a big attraction for potential partners in these territories, helping to drive engagement with Netflix – and allowing the partners to show that they are ‘related’ to the content. “Our bet on local content with global appeal is paying off,” says Ferreras. Maria Ferreras will speak about Netflix’s strategy in Headliner: The next chapter in Netflix’s growth story on Friday at 10:30