Netflix announced today that it will begin offering its streaming services in Cuba to anyone with an Internet connection and “access to international payment methods” like debit or credit cards. Streaming starts at $7.99.
Shows and movies that are available on Netflix can vary from country to country, and in its press release, the company said that it will offer a “curated selection” of “films, series, and kids programming, as it does throughout Latin America” in addition to Netflix’s original programming like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also suggested eventually incorporating some Cuban media for streaming on the service. “Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience of over 57 million members,” he said in Netflix’s press release.
Just two months ago, the White House and Cuba announced that they would begin to restore diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1961. Shortly after that announcement, the Obama Administration gave the go-ahead for US telecom companies to establish infrastructure in Cuba if they so desired. In December, the White House noted that Cuba has a minuscule Internet penetration rate, with only five percent of the population online.
While five percent of a population doesn’t seem like a lot of market to target for Netflix, The Washington Post‘s Brian Fung suggests that the move could contribute to a “virtuous cycle” of Internet investment. “The theory goes like this,” he writes. “When demand for services increases, Internet providers make the necessary investment in their infrastructure to meet that demand. That capacity, in turn, drives more appetite for Internet applications, which spurs more network upgrades, and so on.”
While the investment may drive more Internet use in Cuba, it does seem a bit funny that residents of the island nation, who were (theoretically) forbidden from capitalist exchange and contact with the US not two months ago, will be able to stream Netflix before residents of Australia, New Zealand, and Japan can. Australia in particular has had a fraught relationship with the streaming service, although Netflix has said that it will launch in Australia next month. Content licensing issues have prevented Netflix from expanding into that country, and as a result, some Australians attempt to watch Netflix through a VPN, although this is something Netflix discourages, even to the point of blocking traffic through some known VPNs.