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January 7, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 10:50am

Netflix now streaming in 130 countries, but China remains an obstacle

News: CEO announces global expansion of online video streaming service.

By Charlotte Henry

Netflix has today expanded into 130 more countries, but it will still not be available to Chinese viewers.

Speaking at CES in Las Vegas, Reed Hastings, CEO of the video streaming service, said: "With this launch, consumers around the world – from Singapore to St. Petersburg, from San Francisco to Sao Paulo – will be able to enjoy TV shows and movies simultaneously -no more waiting."

The firm face a major challenge getting into China, and accessing its hundreds of millions of internet users, due to tough censorship rules implemented by the country’s authorities.

In April 2015, the Chinese government passed a rule prohibiting new episodes of foreign programs being shown before its seasons have ended.

Netflix would face business challenges from major Chinese firms Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu if it moved into the country, as they offer their own video streaming services.

Firms are required to have a local partner too, and Netflix has held discussions with Wasu Media Holding, a firm in which Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma is involved. Disney has recently launched a service in partnership with Alibaba in China called DisneyLife.

Hastings said the firm "hope to be [in China] in the future." However he admitted that "Our efforts in China are modest. We’re on a slow and steady path."

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The firm behind hits such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black is, however, moving into Hong Kong, which operates under different administrative rules to the Chinese mainland.

Toby Syfret, Head of TV at media analysis firm Enders Analysis told CBR, that Netflix had to expand, and to make this move now. "It’s got certain great strengths Netflix, in terms of the way it presents its material and the ease of access people have," he said, "but the longer you leave it in countries where you’re not in the bigger the potential barriers you may come across later.

"The faster they got on with it the better chance they have of making their targets of getting 120m plus global paying customers," he said

Netflix is far from the first major tech firm to struggle to get into China. Facebook has been banned in the country for years, although it says it has advertisers there. Twitter, Google, Instagram and Flicker have long been banned there too, as has Google owned video sharing platform YouTube.

Hastings said that his service is more neutral, and less controversial, than sharing site YouTube.

In addition, Netflix will also not be available in Crimea, North Korea and Syria the US government has placed restrictions on American firms operating in those states.

As well as expanding into new countries, Netflix also announced that it was adding new languages to its offering – Arabic, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese. This brings the total languages it offers up to 21. Additional languages are set to follow.

The new growth heightens Netflix’s battle with Amazon, who has its own Amazon Prime Instant Video service, which is now also making original content like hacker show Mr. Robot.

Netflix boasts 70m users in 190 countries, although numbers from CIRP indicate that in total Amazon Prime customers may access video more times a month than Netflix customers. "Netflix is always on a tightrope", said Syfret.

Netflix ended trading last year up 140%, bucking the trend for many media stocks, and closed the day’s trading yesterday up 7.31% at $115.53 a share.

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