Here's How Netflix Inc. Can Take On Censors Around the World

Reliable broadband connections are hard to come by in Kenya.

Kenya should be a lower priority, but it still isn't a market to be ignored. The sixth-largest nation in Africa, Kenya is also sharply divided between an affluent minority and a struggling general population. According to Cisco's studies, these are very early days of broadband access in this country, and Netflix-style services will play to a very small audience in Kenya for years to come.

The Kenyan government does plan to provide 5-megabit broadband to the entire nation -- but that's the endcap to a very long-term plan known as "Vision 2030." Kenya currently has less than 1 million broadband households, 95% of them relying on mobile connections. Sure, it never hurts to get started early, but Kenya won't be a significant broadband market anytime soon.

How Netflix can win in Jakarta

What can Netflix do to stay involved in problematic markets like Indonesia? The first step would be to secure a ton of properly redacted material.

For Netflix original shows, this won't be hard. Set the editing crews to "inoffensive," and let them loose on the content that already belongs to Netflix.

It's true that Sense8 would make very little sense -- no pun intended -- without its psychedelic and sexual references. Narcos without violence? Just show a TV test pattern throughout the entire season, why don't you. But this loss of quality has not stopped censors from taking their hacksaws to all kinds of material around the world, and a crippled Daredevil is still better than none at all.

Third-party shows and films would be trickier, and might require a few amended license agreements. Some studios might prefer to back away from this potential PR firestorm, even if they get a smaller annual check from Netflix's licensing department. But others would be happy to provide redacted versions, or at least let Netflix do its own censorship work.

Meanwhile, Netflix must send negotiators, international law experts, and high-ranking company executives to talk to the Indonesians. If there's paperwork to do, then get it done. Show them how hard you're working on a catalog that conforms to local standards of morality, and promise to keep future titles on a short leash.

The end result would be a collection of de-fanged content, scrubbed chemically clean of materials offensive to Indonesian consumers (or more correctly, to Indonesian censors). This sub-catalog could then be put to good use in other territories with similar issues, like most of the Middle East, and many Asian countries with iron-fisted governments.

What's next?

Netflix is new to these particular issues, because its earlier territories in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Americas generally don't impose strict censorship on media. But here we go, and Netflix must adapt or fail.

Making it work in Indonesia should be well worth the effort as the local economy grows and modernizes. A scrubbed content collection created as a side effect should prove useful in many other markets, and could even be the silver bullet that someday lets Netflix enter China.

Kenya will happen, if only as a logical extension of that Indonesian content cleanup. But don't expect CEO Reed Hastings to take a plane to Nairobi over this early challenge. He's much more urgently needed in Jakarta, after all.

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The article Here's How Netflix Inc. Can Take On Censors Around the World originally appeared on

Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool also recommends Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days .We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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