Netflix to be online in France by the autumn

Netflix will be available in France by the autumn as part of a major expansion by the popular American video streaming service. It arrives after contentious negotiations with the French government, which had tried to place limits on the service.

Netflix to be online in France by the autumn
Netflix is finally coming to France. Photo: AFP

US online entertainment powerhouse Netflix announced what it called significant expansion into Europe on Tuesday, promising viewers in six countries online video by the end of the year.

Already a fixture in parts of northern Europe, the digital television and film streaming star said it would offer monthly subscriptions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

It did not reveal prices, but a report in French daily Le Figaro indicated that Netflix would be in France by mid-September with a subscription plan of less than 10 euros (13 dollars) per month.

"Upon launch, broadband users in these countries can subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch a curated selection of Hollywood, local and global TV series and movies," Netflix said in a release.

Netflix also touted the availability of its growing selection of original programming such as prison comedy-drama "Orange is the New Black" and political thriller "House of Cards."

Such shows will be streamed to televisions, tablets, smartphones, video game consoles or computers.

Since it launched its streaming service in 2007, Netflix has become the world's leading Internet television network, boasting more than 48 million members in more than 40 countries.

Billion hours streamed

Netflix says it streams more than a billion hours, collectively, of digital films and television shows to online viewers each month.

Netflix launched its service in Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden in 2012, and moved into the Netherlands the following year.

Households interested in subscribing to Netflix when it launches in the new batch of European countries were invited to sign up for email alerts at

In April, Netflix reported that revenue during the first three months of this year breached a billion dollars atop growing membership.

It bumped up new subscription rates at the start of May, leaving unchanged the amounts paid by existing members.

Netflix said it added four million new members to finish the quarter and that increasing new monthly subscription prices in Ireland by one euro to 7.99 euros had had a "limited impact."

The company says it has greatly improved its online television and film offerings since it introduced streaming plans four years ago.

Also in April, Netflix announced its first alliances with US cable television service companies to make its popular video streaming service available through their set-top boxes.

The financial terms of Netflix deals with Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications and RCN Telecom Services were not disclosed.

The move will let Netflix members access streaming films and television shows using an application on cable service set-top boxes, eliminating the need to rely on other devices such as video game consoles or Roku boxes plugged into televisions.

Use of the Netflix application will be available to cable subscribers whose service includes TiVo DVR boxes.

"Now, watching Netflix is as easy as changing the channel," Atlantic Broadband chief strategy officer David Isenberg said at the time. 

While the combined total of such customers at the cable companies is estimated at less than a million people, the deals signal a Netflix strategy that involves making itself part of traditional viewer habits.

Netflix has similar deals in place with cable television services in Britain, Denmark, and Sweden.

Separately, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced Netflix had informed his government it plans to move its European headquarters from his country to the Netherlands in 2015.

The prime minister gave no reason for the company wishing to move from a base it has operated since 2011. Luxembourg is known for its low tax regime, especially for audiovisual services.

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No Marseille-bashing in French ‘House of Cards’

Where "House of Cards" portrays Washington DC as a diabolical den of wheeling and dealing, Netflix's new drama set in France, "Marseille", promises brutal local politics but no cliches in a city widely seen as crime-ridden and seamy.

No Marseille-bashing in French 'House of Cards'
The seedy side of Marseille is the setting for the French House of Cards. Photo: Jeanne Menj/Flickr

But two of the Frenchmen behind the new series to be shown late this year by the US streaming operator, screenwriter Dan Franck and producer Pascal Breton, say they have done their best to avoid perpetuating cliches.

"Those expecting Kalashnikovs will be disappointed," warned Breton in an interview with AFP, referring to the weapon of choice of Marseille's criminals to settle scores and keep police at bay. "It's out of the question to do any Marseille-bashing," Franck said.

Even though the eight episodes set in the southern coastal city, France's second-biggest after Paris, will delve into its dark underworld — made famous in the 1971 Hollywood movie "The French Connection" — the lead characters do not include any police officers.

Indeed, the city itself looms largest.

"We chose Marseille because it's a city with an absolutely incredible personalty," said Franck, sitting with Breton in a bar overlooking Marseille's colourful historic port.

"The ghettos are a character. The politicians are characters. That's what interests us, it's not about standing up or tearing down Marseille's image.

Human passions are strong everywhere, and they are even stronger in a Mediterranean city — a city like Marseille, that is bigger than life, as the Americans say," Breton added.

Focus on power struggle

The focus of the show is Marseille's city hall, and a power struggle between the veteran mayor and a young, hungry politician looking to usurp him.

All of it is set within a Mediterranean city hosting gangs, ghettos, African and Muslim immigrants, and history dating back to the time of the Greeks.

"It's mainly a conflict between two characters, two forms of political morality, two generations fighting over the same turf," Franck said.

He said he was welcomed everywhere he went to research the story, from the municipal offices to mosques, to criminal kingpins.

"I met some real characters," he said. The organised crime bosses he met, he added, were overjoyed that "people outside their milieu… listened to them".

As in "House of Cards", politics is at the centre of "Marseille".

But while the American show  — itself based on a British book that was made into a BBC drama of the same title — is all about national politics, the story in "Marseille" stays local.

Breton however explained that "15 years of French political life" have served as inspiration for the series.

That period would notably include racial tensions in French society and numerous scandals.

But "it's a story that is completely made up," Franck stressed.

"In 'House of Cards' there was cynicism. And in 'Marseille' there is cunning. It's not at all the same. Cunning is human. Cynicism is robotic," he added.

Breton chimed in by emphasising the "passion" in French politics. "In the United States, it's a sort of moral posture, it's almost religious when it comes to politics… But we don't look for a god, we're more looking for a king."

'Theatre facing the sea'

The producer said he sold Netflix on the possibility of making Marseille the backdrop of the show, rather than Paris, by describing how much it was like "a big theatre facing the sea".

While the French-language series will be available in all the countries where Netflix operates, it will serve a special role in France itself, both men predicted.

"You don't see a lot about how French democracy functions on French TV," Breton said. "It's rather difficult to make it spectacular, dramatic, even tragic."

But the fact that Shakespearian struggles of power are now back in fashion — with no small thanks to "House of Cards" — means "Marseille" has "space to make its mark," he said. "It's up to us to not fall short."