It began — as it often does — innocently enough, on February 14 when I e-mailed the local Netflix PR agency to ask for a comment about the film Inxeba streaming on the US platform in relation to the service in South Africa. A follow-up e-mail two days later read: “apologies for the late response, we had an event on Wednesday”.
“Inexba (sic) is not on the South African service (and was never launched on our service). It is only available on the US Netflix.”
Since this was exactly what we already knew, I pushed back. She replied: “I will be in touch shortly regarding your questions.” More e-mails were sent on February 20, 22 and 26 before she answered: “firstly I apologise for the late response”. “As I’m sure you understand, we need for the answers to come directly from the global team and this can take some time.
“As you know the film is only available in the US, this is because we do not have the rights in South Africa to show it. Netflix does not have any views on the South African banning.”
At this point, the Amsterdam-based PR for Netflix Europe Middle East Africa (EMEA) “jumped in” to say “on background - as I’m sure you know the licensing landscape for content is complex. The film was licensed to screen in South African cinemas first, therefore we cannot have the streaming rights for the film as well.”
She is correct, and you can read more about this “complex landscape” on page 10, but I still wanted to know if Netflix would, at some point in the future, acquire these rights. Would it not be a great opportunity for the platform somewhere down the line, I wondered?
Having missed a career in politics, her reply circled back to “as I said the licensing landscape is very complex, there are numerous reasons and external factors as to where or by who a title is acquired”. “We’re fairly new in South Africa, we listen and observe a lot, so we work on bringing more joyful content to consumers.
“In parallel, we are going to spend over $8billion on Originals content which will bring more than 700 Originals. All of this content will be available at the same time across all our 190 countries, including South Africa, on top of licensed content.”
Seven hundred Netflix Originals? Joyful content? Still not having much luck with my original query, I asked: “I’m also interested by your use of the words ‘joyful content’ - is this relevant to the subject matter of Inxeba?
“The spend on original content and its release in all territories is also vague - over what time period? From when? What genres?”
Because this is what journalists do. We ask questions.
Determining tone in written correspondence is not an accurate science, but this did seem a little terse: “all of the figures noted are for 2018”.
“For your questions regarding Inexba (sic, again), I have given you all the information I have, otherwise we have no further comment.”
I said that was disappointing, as was the ongoing lack of answers to direct questions. And I couldn’t help pointing out the spelling mistake.
I haven’t heard from her since.