When it comes to Netflix content, sometimes less is more
Guest column: Samuel Cook returns to take an in-depth look at the issue of quality versus quantity in Netflix regions and finds some countries have the best content
Netflix may be going through a few growing pains recently, but it’s still sitting pretty as the number one subscription-based streaming service in the world. Netflix currently boasts huge numbers: more than 83 million subscribers, over 36 million of whom are outside of the U.S. However, given the fact that Netflix utilizes licensing agreements to stream content in each country, there’s no getting around an unfortunate truth: somewhere, some country has to have the best content.
To be direct, Netflix is available in over 130 countries. Then again, Netflix is about as American as it gets. And given that U.S. Netflix has the most titles, we here in the states definitely enjoy the best content. Right? Well, maybe not.
Best Content vs. More Content
There’s a problematic idea floating around right now when it comes to on-demand streaming sites. “More content is better”. That seems to exist in many people’s minds when it comes to American Netflix. But what happens when a service is loaded with content, but that content is primarily shows and movies that nobody really wants to watch? Therein lies the problem with American Netflix: lots of content, but far too much low-quality content. So we’re on a mission right now. We’re out to discover which Netflix regions have the best content.
Total title counts have been done before, and they’re not exactly difficult to do either. For example, here’s a quick-and-dirty graph of the top 10 countries with the largest number of Netflix titles sitting in their coffers:
There are certainly some surprises on the list, but, unsurprisingly, the U.S. and U.S. territories have the heftiest libraries by far. But in different regions, there’s a more complex picture than just numbers. There’s also the question related to quality. For one thing, many of Netflix’s premiere, home-grown shows simply aren’t available in different regions. The complexity of license agreements continues to rear its ugly head for shows “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”, both of which are arguably the streaming service’s hits. Netflix appears to be struggling to get those shows in some of its larger markets, including Germany.
All this means is that many Netflix users are left with smaller libraries than they’d otherwise enjoy if they were accessing Netflix in the U.S. We discovered some of these issues ourselves while investigating updates to the Netflix VPN crackdown and VPN services that help circumvent it. The quality of a region’s titles may have less to do with volume than with copyright issues. Which is to say, title counts may increase one’s options and the chances of finding the best shows, but if your options are mostly poor quality B-movies and low-rated television shows, it may be worth considering the use of a VPN to view better content from a different region. Yes, that includes American Netflix users.
Before you ask: No, it’s not illegal to view Netflix by proxy through a virtual private network. The reason geographic content barriers exist is to maximize profits. Despite many thoughts to the contrary, that profit is not always going to Netflix. If Netflix had its way, it would likely offer the same content everywhere. Copyright owners are the largest blockade to content availability in different regions. Netflix has to work within the system as best it can, resulting from the vastly different content libraries that exist country to country.
Which Content is “The Best”? Our Methodology
We employed a simple methodology to determine which regions may have the best Netflix content. First, we identified which countries have the largest content libraries. As we stated, this is not an indication of quality but increases the chance of finding better content. We then utilized IMDB’s lists for the top-rated television programs and the top rated movies. We looked at each separately, as some regions may have better options for one or the other. Finally, we used flixsearch.io to determine three things: whether the program was available on Netflix at all, whether it’s available in the U.S., and finally, whether it’s available outside of the U.S. Our goal was simple: Is the U.S. really the best place to find the best content?
Television Shows on Netflix
When it comes to movie and television preferences, there’s almost no accounting for taste. I may love the Blade trilogy (don’t judge me!) while most people might prefer open heart surgery as a suitable replacement when presented the option. Nevertheless, plenty of film and TV ratings exist that cover the gamut of both subjective and objective ranking metrics. We decided to turn to IMDB’s ranking of the top films and movies. Admittedly, these rankings are based on IMDB users rating each program. However, it’s best to consider this a “crowdsourced” approach.
There were two takeaways regarding Netflix content. First, if you’re looking for Netflix Originals, the best place is going to be U.S. Netflix. While Netflix Originals get past much of the content licensing issues, they can’t get past all of them in every country.
When it comes to cartoons (particularly anime) and British television shows, U.S. Netflix is occasionally lacking. No single country emerged as a clear winner for where to watch great shows not available on U.S. Netflix, but a few did make a positive showing: Dominican Republic, UK, Germany and Australia. Surprisingly, of those, only the Dominican Republic is among the top 10 countries with the most content on Netflix. Nevertheless, the U.S. library is the best place to view most of the top-rated shows available on Netflix.
Here are the top 25 television shows, as ranked by IMDB:
Netflix appears to have done a good job securing licensing agreements for a majority of the most popular shows. Some are understandably unavailable, such as The Sopranos, which is HBO content. Given that HBO has its own streaming service, it would not make much sense for them to license it out to a competitor. What’s interesting here, however, is that only one show out of the top 25 available is solely available in the U.S., while two are available outside of the U.S. We found this interesting enough to expand our search using the next 50 shows:
Movies on Netflix
Movies still top the list for the largest part of what Netflix does. So much so it’s in the name. For a company that started out as a DVD rental service, it’s come a long way. Securing movie deals is a bit different for Netflix than it is for the television shows they acquire. Even still, there are a large number of top-rated movies available outside of American Netflix, and practically none that are available solely on American Netflix.
From what we found, American Netflix is pretty much a dead zone for the top-rated movies. So where should a user turn in this case? Belgium, Brazil, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. These countries offer the best library of top rated movies.
Here’s what we found for the top 25 movies on IMDB:
Getting Access to Different Netflix Libraries
To recap, here’s what we found:
- For top-rated television shows, American Netflix covers most, but not all content. Outside of this, try the Dominican Republic, UK, Germany and Australia.
- For top-rated movies, American Netflix is possibly one of the worst places to look. Instead, opt for Belgium, Brazil, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
For television shows, American Netflix is pretty much where you want to be. Americans enjoy the best programs, hands down, and much of that has to do with Netflix pouring so much of its time and energy into creating its own hit programming. Even still, Netflix is able to acquire television program rights much easier for its American customers, which certainly helps.
As for movies, however, Americans are getting the short end of the stick. Outside of the U.S., many Netflix subscribers are enjoying hit films that their American counterparts probably don’t even know are available on Netflix at all. Sure, American Netflix has a large library of Disney films due to a partnership with Disney, but unless you’re a parent with a few young kids, or you simply enjoy Disney movies (who doesn’t, really?), you’re likely not going to take too much pleasure in that.
Many international users started turning to VPN services to get past the geographic content blocks and access the U.S. Netflix library. But it seems that Americans may want to do the same as well, given the poor quality American customers have when it comes to movie content. Of course, there is the Netflix proxy crackdown to contend with. We recently tested a handful of services and found several that were capable of bypassing the proxy blockade. Among those were ExpressVPN and VIPDNSClub.
Netflix is probably going to the continue dealing with its unfortunate content licensing struggle. Unfortunately for the company, those licensing agreements are simply too lucrative for copyright owners. In some small way, we should probably feel sorry for Netflix. Even big corporations like Netflix can suffer when copyrights are involved.
Samuel Cook is a freelance writer, and this column appears courtesy of AddonHQ.com.