Netflix isn't the first on-demand movie service to Ireland, but it is the one technology observers have been waiting for.

Despite being in existence since 1997, Netflix has shown little to no interest in overseas markets until it announced plans last year to expand into UK, Europe, Latin and Central America and, of course, Ireland.

If Netflix takes off here it should trump them all and assume the same dominant position it enjoys in the US, where it accounts for almost a third of all bandwidth consumed. Anything less than market dominance would be considered a failure. Standing in its way are illegal file sharing, console platforms like Xbox LIVE, Apple TV, rent-by-post service Screenclick and catch-up websites like RTÉ Player and 4OD.

At €6.99 per month (first month free for now), Netflix's flat rate subscription is less than the price of a single cinema ticket or rental of two new releases from a high street video store.

It's also cheaper than renting through Apple TV and Xbox LIVE and it has a far better catalogue. As iTunes has shown, even when technology makes piracy simple, people are happy to part with money for a safe, convenient, legal alternative.

The question is whether the arrival of Netflix represents a final victory for on-demand content over broadcast TV as we know it? Should people be throwing out their TVs in favour of oversized monitors and external sound systems? Let's look at the possible winners and losers.

Broadcast TV

At first glance broadcast TV will be the first casualty of Netflix's arrival, but the medium has proven far more robust than it is given credit for. To date, broadcast has survived the VCR, piracy, hard disk recorders, PVR boxes that record entire series with one touch of a button and the proliferation of ever more specialised channels offering magazine shows and curated recycling of low common denominator material like Top Gear, Friends and whatever 'classics' you're having yourself.

A worst case scenario would see ad revenue migrate away from broadcasters, leading to a squeeze on budgets and, ultimately, less material being produced.

This argument may hold water for expensive dramas like Dr Who or comedies like The IT Crowd, but for magazine shows, current events and sports coverage broadcast can't be beaten. If channels have a catch-up service in place then Netflix really isn't something worth worrying about.

Broadband providers

One group that definitely will feel the strain is broadband providers. Netflix's website states a minimum speed of 500Kb/s is all that's required. This is a modest standard in urban areas, but it's a recipe for havoc elsewhere, particularly given the Government's target of getting a minimum standard of 1.6Mb/s under the national broadband strategy.

Given the wild variation in what networks promise (speeds "up to") and what they can actually deliver, there may be more than a few unhappy customers amongst early adopters. Oversubscribed mobile broadband networks won't win any new advocates.


At a first pass the arrival of Netflix is another nail in the coffin retails chains, whose business has migrated away from music to DVD box sets and technology. With iTunes in control of music retail and Netflix handling video it's hard to see how the high street can keep up.

As sales continue to decline and chains like HMV register record losses it's arguably a matter of when, not if, we start to see some high profile closures.

Still, there is some hope for stores if they focus on customer service, providing expert opinion on products and finding a way to turn stores into social hubs, just as bookshops managed to do. A well-kept store, knowledgeable staff and good coffee goes a long way.


Ultimately it's the market that decides, and in the case of Netflix that varies from the casual viewer to the devoted cinephile. If the latter can't be serviced, you can be fairly sure the former are unlikely to be won over.

Judging by the reception on social media websites at time of launch, the limited catalogue has attracted some criticism. If you're looking for a steady diet of avant garde film and cult classics you will be disappointed, but low- to middle- brows will have enough to justify the subscription price.

Will Netflix do the business in Ireland? It's cheap enough to be a painless addition to anyone's home entertainment set-up, and is a decent alternative to subscription movie channel packages. If anything, Netflix will force the home entertainment sphere to better itself, and that will only be a good thing for customers.

Niall Kitson is editor of