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Netflix must seek permission to launch in Vietnam: ministry

Saturday, January 09, 2016, 10:17 GMT+7

The Ministry of Information and Communications is likely the first local regulatory body to response to news that Netflix is available in Vietnam, but its reaction may sadden the on-demand Internet media streaming service.

Netflix has made its service available in more than 130 new markets, including Vietnam, according to an announcement by co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings at the CES 2016 in Las Vegas on Thursday.

While the California-based company only provides the on-demand video and media services to TVs and many other devices through the Internet, the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications considers it as a pay TV provider.

Netflix is required to obtain permission from Vietnamese agencies to offer services in the country otherwise it is breaching the law, Ngo Huy Toan, head of the ministry’s inspectorate, said Friday.

Once licensed, Netflix must also ensure that the contents it provides comply with the Vietnamese law, Toan added, citing a government’s decision that regulates the pay TV sector.

According to the document, a pay TV provider is required to be “an entity that is licensed to operate as a media agency in Vietnam’s TV sector.”

“The movies must be legally copyrighted, while their contents must also be edited and approved by relevant Vietnamese press agencies to ensure appropriateness in terms of culture and philosophy,” Toan elaborated.

The inspector also said that if Netflix refuses to comply with the Vietnamese law, regulatory agencies will apply different measures, including technical intervention, to stop the company’s Internet-based pay TV service in the country.

Vietnamese subscribers can try Netflix for free for one month by signing up on the company’s website.

In Vietnam, the Basic plan costs VND180,000 (US$8) a month, whereas the Standard and Premium packages fetch VND220,000 ($10) and VND260,000 ($12), respectively, according to Netflix.

The reaction of the communications ministry only adds to a couple of challenges the world’s leading Internet television network may be facing in the Southeast Asian country.

With a lack of Vietnamese-subbed movies in its database, it could be a tough task for Netflix to win subscribers in a country where English is neither the first nor second language.

Another possible challenge is that most local Internet users prefer watching movies on pirated websites, which is totally cost-free.

Some Vietnamese movie platforms also sell premium accounts, with monthly fees ranging from VND50,000 ($2.2) to VND100,000 ($4.4), far cheaper than Netflix plans.

Founded in 2007 in the U.S., Netflix now boasts more than 70 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films.

Its Internet TV service is available on virtually any device that has an Internet connection, including personal computers, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and game consoles.

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