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Netflix in France: Ou est le contenu?

by David Watkins | 10月 06, 2014

As a British expat living in Bordeaux, France I decided to sign up to Netflix over the weekend and give it a test run for a month before deciding whether to ‘cut the cord’ and ditch my relatively expensive Canal+ subscription on which I have been relying for my fix of English language TV shows and films.


Signing up to Netflix was a doddle and as you would expect with the service, the user interface is clean, easy to navigate and content is well categorized into all the most commonly used French genre types. I set about streaming the first season of the US hit show Breaking Bad to my TV via my laptop using a Chromecast dongle plugged into the HDMI port at the back of my TV. Netflix is a one of several services supported by Chromecast and therefore has a dedicated ‘Cast’ button built into the interface allowing for a higher quality viewing experience compared to simply mirroring the PC’s screen on the TV. Furthermore, once you click the ‘Cast to TV’ button within the Netflix app, the Chromecast dongle takes over the streaming responsibilities with the PC (or mobile device) effectively becoming the remote control. The overall experience of using Netflix on the TV was excellent with virtually no lag between choosing a show and it appearing on my TV screen. In fact the experience was far better than I have been used to when trying to access TV shows or movies via the Canal+ VOD service which involves clicking through a myriad of tiles to find the content you want, a task that can take several minutes.


Overall the current content offering on Netflix in France is a little underwhelming and so it will be interesting to see how quickly the company can boost its library of TV shows and movies. American content dominates with TV series like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Fargo, Modern Family and Homeland all getting prominent placement on the home screen. These types of show are very popular in France – my French friends here regularly talk about them over an aperitif. There is also a smattering of TV shows from the BBC including Sherlock, Broadchurch, Downton Abbey, Misfits, Doctor Who and Top Gear.


Significantly, French language content is relatively thin on the ground. I counted approximately 50 French movies which prompted my cinema-loving French wife to cry out “C’est tout?”. There are a few classics in there but very few films post 2006. There are also very few French TV series listed (8 in total) and half of these are crime documentary series. In this respect the Canal+ offering is far superior.


The kids content library is pretty well stocked however. My 4 year old son was pretty excited to see so many Disney classics as well as some French cartoons he already watches on regular TV. We certainly won’t need to ask for any new DVDs from Pere Noel this Christmas!


Netflix has made an impressive start to life in France as reported by our recent Digital Media Strategies Insight Netflix Off to a Strong Start in France.  English speaking expats like me will appreciate the wide range of popular US and British programming. However, there is a distinct lack of French language content which will turn a lot of French people off particularly the older generations. Unless Netflix can quickly add some compelling French language content I won’t be surprised if quite a number of subscribers end up cancelling their subscription as soon as their one month free trial expires.



David Watkins

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