Netflix arrives in Canada amid fanfare, controversy
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, September 22, 2010 10:02PM EDT
Video-streaming website Netflix arrived in Canada amid great fanfare and a spot of controversy on Wednesday. The company was forced to apologize for using actors to appear as curious onlookers and give media interviews at the company's Canadian launch in downtown Toronto.
Netflix is marking its arrival in Canada by offering customers one month of free service. A regular subscription will cost $7.99 per month, which includes access to the company's library of television shows and movies to watch on DVD or via online streaming.
Company CEO Reed Hastings introduced the Canadian service during a press conference and street party that shut down part of John Street in the city's core.
"It's just such a good value, I think a lot of people will subscribe," Hastings told CTV Toronto.
But a number of spectators were in fact paid actors who gave interviews to journalists, extolling the virtues of the service.
"Extras are to behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out," read a sheet of instructions given to the actors.
"Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada."
Once the actors were outed on Twitter, Netflix was forced to apologize and explain that the directions were necessary for the company to obtain a permit to film the launch.
"I was unaware that a script was handed out to extras and that was not supposed to happen," said Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications for Netflix.
"Extras were not supposed to talk to reporters or convey that they were anything other than promotional people.
"Some people got carried away and it's embarrassing to Netflix."
The actor controversy is not the only knock against the company. While pluses include the fact the service can be accessed via most electronic devices, from a Playstation to an iPad, critics say the site boasts a lot of older titles and fewer new releases and hit shows and films.
Scott Richards, CEO of rival company Zip.ca, is unconcerned about his new competition.
"The content they have is relatively old compared to the new and old stuff that we have," Richards told CTV Toronto.
Zip.ca is also preparing to offer online steaming by the end of the year.
Hastings said the company was focused on offering Canadians a broad range of titles, rather than only the newest releases. But he said as more customers sign up, the options will grow.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube and files from The Canadian Press