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Netflix: Spending Less On Domestic Lobbying, More On Worldwide Change

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BY April 29, 2020
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When most people think about their favorite streaming services, it’s the content that comes to mind. Even in the midst of the streaming wars, questions like who has the better original content, or who spends the most on movies are heard more frequently than anything else. However, things are heating up behind the scenes in ways that have little to do with Stranger Things or Orange Is the New Black. Netflix, like other streaming services, is in a strange position. Is it a tech company, or is it a studio? Netflix has begun aligning themselves more closely with studios and has been focusing on its worldwide policies rather than domestic lobbying. Though, it gets complicated.

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Netflix And Policy Change

Netflix has gone from a cheap website to stream your favorite films, to a platform for major awards contenders and culture-changing content.  After the 2019 Oscars, Netflix was responsible for some major awards (specifically for Roma). There is ongoing talk of a policy change, where streaming services would be ineligible, or at least have more strict rules, for Academy Awards contention. Well, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim (appointed by President Trump) wasn’t a fan of this. Apparently, if the Academy includes rules that exclude certain types of movies, it would “violate Section 1” referencing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. This act prohibits rival companies from anti-competitive agreements.

Big companies try to have their say in major policy changes all of the time. Companies can lobby to change rules and regulations, and sway policymakers. But Netflix has said that Delrahim acted on his own, with no say from Netflix. Delrahim’s words seemed to have worked, as all recent Academy meetings have gone with no proposals that would prohibit Netflix from seeking out awards. This event brought up conversations of Netflix’s place in domestic and worldwide lobbying. While they may not have played their hand this time, what do they lobby for?

Netflix Lobbying History

Google reportedly spent $21.2 million on D.C. Influence last year. Companies like Amazon, AT&T, and Comcast were not far behind. This spending is allocated for domestic lobbying. Netflix, on the other hand, spent only $800,000 on lobbying. According to the Senate Office of Public Records, Netflix has spent money on lobbyist groups such as Monument Policy Group and Baker & McKenzie. The specific issues that they’ve focused on have included telecommunications, copyright, patent and trademark issues. Specifically, things like internet privacy and intellectual property. One of the recent bills that they’ve been behind wants to simplify the ways that digital services are taxed. Net neutrality was once a hot topic for Netflix, but they’ve been showing less interest.

Netflix’s political opinions aren’t a huge secret. While many companies have been under fire for supporting Donald Trump, Netflix has positioned itself in favor of the Democratic Party. Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings, two Netflix executives, have donated to multiple Democratic candidates over the years. Higher Ground, the production company of Michelle and Barack Obama, is in partnership with Netflix.

Proving Itself As A Worldwide Production Company

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Image via Netflix.

As Netflix has grown into more of a studio and has been making waves with its decisions. Netflix became the first streaming service to join the MPAA. This partnership signifies Netflix’s positions on things that the MPAA lobies towards and supports, like anti-piracy measures and content creator coalitions. It also means that Netflix is making moves on a global scale. The MPAA has lobbied for Chinese films to break through the Hollywood market. It has been difficult for Netflix to break into China markets, as they have restrictions on importent content. This partnership could mean that Netflix is working harder to break through this market.

Netflix currently has 30 full-time staff that work with lobbying and public policy. Only four of them are based out of Washington. The rest operate across the world, in countries like France, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Netflix has expanded its reach to 190 countries, and its world domination depends on utilizing international public policy to continue its growth. A lot of the work that Netflix does in international public policy relates to countries demands that a certain percentage of content be from the country that it is streaming in. For example, the EU has a law that mandates at least 30% of content be European. So, Netflix has contributed to local production in these countries.

A World Of Streaming

Netflix, like other streaming services, are growing. With plenty of upcoming streaming services, their reach will only continue to dominate. Some servies, like Hulu, are limited to the United States. Netflix is clearly in the lead of the global markets, but it’s not unlikely that others will follow suit. Amazon is even in talks to follow Netflix in joining the MPAA.

So, the next time that you stream your binge-of-the-week, think about just how much goes on behind the scenes of streaming services. Netflix’s money goes towards lobbying towards local and foreign policy changes. And it’s so much more than wanting to win an Oscar.

Featured image via Netflix, highlighting all of the countries where the service is available.

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Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.

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