Vast global subs make VoD a potential partner as well as a threat

Confession time – I have, with slightly ironic timing, just cancelled my Netflix subscription.

Demonstrating fiscal control that George Osborne would be proud of, I’ve decided that £5.99 a month is too much of an investment. My PVR is fit to burst and I can barely keep up with the UK’s linear schedules – plus I could never find much on there I wanted to watch.

Fortunately for the SVoD service and particularly for Left Bank Pictures, there are almost 50m people around the world who are more committed customers.

It’s that swell of subscribers that allows Netflix to fund the eye-watering £100m budget that Broadcast understands has been allocated to The Crown. That figure has prompted a bit of head-scratching, given that it would seem to exceed the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey cash-fest that is House Of Cards and HBO’s epic Game Of Thrones.

There may never be full clarity of the budget – Netflix is frustratingly secretive around costs and viewing figures – but it is clearly at the vanguard of a new group of platforms that mean serious business.

UK broadcasters such as Channel 5 were understood to be mulling a bid for CBS’s sci-fi thriller Extant at the LA Screenings last week, but have been beaten to the punch, for first run rights at least, by Amazon Prime Instant Video.

And in our Rights & Finance supplement, published with this issue, two of TV’s most influential execs acknowledge the power of their emerging digital rivals – or are they potential partners?

ITV director of television and Netflix customer Peter Fincham has revealed that the broadcaster is in development on drama projects with a number of digital companies, while Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt thinks the emergence of Amazon and Hulu is “utterly game-changing” for the genre.

“I never thought we’d get to the point where I’m on the phone with the head of commissioning as quickly as I would be a UKTV, or an American studio – but I am now.”

Both clearly believe these companies represent an opportunity, as well as a threat. The first evidence of that was C4’s deal to co-produce Kudos’s 8 x 60-minute Humans with Xbox.

So while the likes of BBC and ITV missed out on The Crown because of Netflix’s chequebook, there’s every chance they may end up working with it in a meaningful way. The SVoD service has already put money into C4’s Derek and BBC2’s The Fall but an all-singing all-dancing co-pro with an even split of funding and major creative input from both sides cannot be too far away.

That might be enough to win back even the busiest lapsed subscriber.

Chris Curtis is editor of Broadcast