How the EU Made Life Harder for Netflix

europe makes life harder for netflix
Life can be tough when you're an international streaming sensation.

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2016 @ 5:39 pm

Netflix made waves earlier this year when it announced streaming services in an additional 130 countries. Suddenly whole new audiences could enjoy the nefarious deeds of Frank Underwood on House of Cards and understand why Washington, D.C. residents were so creeped out by a metro ad promoting a “push in the right direction”.

Enter the European Union. In late May, the European Commission, the EU’s chief regulator, recommended that on-demand and video streaming services be required to reserve 20% of their catalogs for European content. The move is supposed to support local arts and entertainment.

Netflix was not thrilled about the news. A spokesman said that while the company “appreciates the Commission’s objective to have European production flourish, …the proposed measures won’t actually achieve that.”

Critics have weighed in on both sides of the debate with lofty talk of protectionism and free trade, yet no one seems to be answering one important question: Will this change how I Netflix and chill?

Fear not, fans of couch cuddling and Orange Is the New Black. Below is a primer on the new proposal and what it means for you.

Who’s behind the EU Imposed Content Regulation?

Representatives from various European countries supported the measure. However, the Spanish and French governments were the principal lobbyists. Both countries have complained about the creeping influence of the English language on their culture and arts.

The complaints are nothing new. Back in 1993, France and Spain both passed protectionist measures to boost local entertainment industries against American media. France required radio stations to devote 40% of their airtime to French songs, while Spain imposed restrictions on the projection of American films. They argued that such laws were the only way to preserve European cultural identity

Now that people are shifting their media consumption away from the cinema and over to the computer screen it seems Europe thinks new regulations are in order. The move is also in line with other EU decisions forcing Internet companies to change what content is displayed in Europe, like the famous “right to be forgotten” case.

All Online Streaming Services Affected by EU Regulation

All video-on-demand services will be held to the quota, meaning Netflix will be joined by rivals Amazon and Apple iTunes. And while all three currently surpass the 20% benchmark, there are also vague measures requiring the companies to make financial contributions aiding European film and TV production.

Netflix points to the European projects it already has as proof that no regulation is necessary. Marseille, a French-language series following the seedier side of the title city, began streaming this spring, and The Crown, a sweeping drama about Queen Elizabeth II, will be released this fall. Netflix says it also has Italian, Spanish, and German productions in the works.

Other critics of the regulation say the market–i.e. you–are the one who should decide what gets streamed, and not bureaucrats in Brussels. They also point out that less successful streaming companies will probably just buy a lot of cheap, low-quality content to meet that quota. If so, that might undermine a proposal that’s supposed to bring out the best in European cultural production.

Will the EU Affect My Netflix Happy Time?

It depends on where you watch your Netflix. Currently, Netflix offers different libraries of content to different countries. That means when you travel with Netflix, you might find something you wouldn’t see in your home country. In this case, European Netflix subscribers are likely the only ones to be impacted.

Right now Netflix just barely hits the required 20% European content benchmark. However, the proposal could affect how it adds content in the future. Basically, for every four hours of non-local content Netflix offers European customers, they’ll be forced to add an additional hour of European content. And while they could cut old content in order to maintain the required ratio, that would cause European consumers to lose out.

What do you think of the EU’s idea–intrigued? Confused? Annoyed? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image: Dmyrto_Z / Deposit Photos


  1. Poor Europe. They didn’t complain when French was the language of diplomacy worldwide. And the Germans didn’t mind when German was the language of science. Unfortunately, English is a very free-form language. Its multiplicity of grammatical constructions, its ability to absorb words from other cultures, and its ability to nail down time and space make it a winner language for this scientific age. We use Latin constructions, Latin word precursors, and we still use Saxon words, Spanish words, French words and even German words. We don’t worry about bastardizing the language. We are a bastardized people–as are the French–but we revel in it.