The "Originals" category on Netflix Spain mainly consists of American productions, with some titles from other countries and few Spanish productions. This perpetuates the imbalance in audiovisual flow between Spanish and North American content. This is one of the conclusions of the "Audiovisual diversity and online platforms: The case of Netflix" project, undertaken by the Audiovisual Diversity research group from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). This study analyses the type of content offered by the streaming service in its "Originals" category, from a diversity point of view, and reflects on the characteristics of its original content catalogue.
The research team working on this project notes that Netflix’s, the world’s leading video-on-demand provider, catalogue has two characteristics: temporary and geographical. The first refers to its volatile nature, in other words, the audiovisual productions on offer are constantly being updated. The second feature refers to the fact that the content supply in each country where the company operates is different due to copyright management. "This study is based theoretically on the complex relationships that exist between cultural diversity and the audiovisual industry. It reflects on the characteristics of Netflix’s offer which is generally organised as geographical and temporary catalogues, as well as their "Originals", a complex and key category in the company’s operation, which is supplied by both its own and licensed titles", notes Luis A. Albornoz, lecturer at the UC3M’s Department of Communication and Media Studies and codirector of this research project.
Having analysed "Original" productions in the catalogue of Netflix Spain from a diversity point of view, researchers have concluded that most of the titles are produced by American companies, while there are very few Spanish productions. Similarly, when examining linguistic diversity, they also highlight the fact that English is the dominant language in productions. This prevalence of English is offset by a wide range of dubbed and subtitled productions. "However, Netflix’s dubbing and subtitling strategy within the Spanish market has, so far, ignored the linguistic diversity of a country with three co-official languages in certain areas," says Mª Trinidad García Leiva, lecturer at the UC3M’s Department of Communication and Media Studies and codirector of this project.
Netflix’s content offering elicits debates about threats that cultural identities may face due to the large amount of American content being offered and the lack of diversity in the origin of their productions. This is why the European Union has reformulated its Audiovisual Media Services Directive, by forcing companies like Netflix to offer at least 30% European productions in its catalogues. This regulatory change has also been analysed by the UC3M’s Audiovisual Diversity research group.
The results of this study could be of interest to entities within the sector and that are responsible for implementing policies aimed at ensuring audiovisual diversity. The "Audiovisual diversity and online platforms: The case of Netflix" project (CSO2017-83539-R) has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Spanish State Research Agency.
Currently, the UC3M’s Audiovisual Diversity research group is developing a project called "Diversity and on-demand subscription-based audiovisual services" (PID2019-109639RB-I00), which is being financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. "The aim of research is to describe and analyse, in terms of promoting and/or protecting audiovisual diversity in the industry, the changes caused by the presence of companies offering on-demand subscription-based audiovisual services in the Spanish market. Special attention is being paid to those who operate on a global scale and whose parent companies are located in the United States. In other words, Netflix Spain, HBO Spain, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+", concludes Luis A. Albornoz.
Albornoz, L.A. y García Leiva, M.T. (2021). Netflix Originals in Spain: Challenging diversity. European Journal of Communication. https://doi.org/10.1177/02673231211012174