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Andrea Peterson

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Posted at 09:06 PM ET, 09/05/2011

Netflix global expansion includes bigger D.C. lobby office

Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings (MIKE CASSESE - REUTERS)
Netflix on Monday launched its online streaming service in Latin America, undeterred by the setback with its Starz partnership and angry customers.

And as it sets its sights on expanding across the globe with plans for Asia and Europe, the Silicon Valley streaming giant is trying to beef up its lobbying and policy staff in Washington to work out an onslaught of international and U.S. issues that threaten its business.

The company recently posted a position for senior manager of government relations to work for its local D.C. head, Michael Drobac. It may hire more staff as it grapples with issues such as online privacy for video service providers, net neutrality and Internet consumer billing issues such data caps.

“In every market, there are issues to deal with and that’s just too much for one person, or even two, so there may be potentially more staff in Washington down the road,” said a person familiar with the company’s plans.

Of those issues:

Video privacy: The company wants changes to the Video Privacy Protection Act that prevents its customers from sharing information on third party sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Marketplace Tech Report explains the issue here.

Net Neutrality: Netflix supported the Federal Communications Commission rules that prevent Internet service providers from blocking certain content arbitrarily. But it also fears that ISPs could use billing plans — such as usage-based pricing — to effectively keep competitors such as Netflix and YouTube from gaining even greater popularity as consumers curb how much video they watch.

Netflix on Monday started its Latin America service in Brazil and plans to expand to 43 countries in the region, including the Caribbean, starting next week.

The online streaming giant, with 25 million customers in the U.S. and Canada, said it has licensed thousands of hours of feature films, televnovelas, documentaries and kids shows for Latin American audiences.

The announcement comes after Netflix announced it lost its important content contract with Starz, which was up for renewal in February. CEO Reed Hastings said the portion of Starz titles has diminished from its overall total over the years. But investors saw the announcement last week as a major loss for the company and sold off shares of the once high-flying online giant.

Hastings told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that he doesn’t think there is much hope to revive negotiations for Starz.

Some consumers, meanwhile, have left the service after new price plans added 60 percent higher fees for those who want to stick with DVD rentals along with their streaming plans.


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By  |  09:06 PM ET, 09/05/2011

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