Netflix launches UK film and TV streaming service

Netflix publicity Netflix's Reed Hastings poses for a publicity photo with two stars of The Only Way is Essex.

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Movie and TV streaming service Netflix has launched in the UK and Ireland.

It will face strong competition from online rivals, including Amazon-owned Lovefilm which recently surpassed two million subscribers.

Last summer research suggested that Netflix was the single biggest driver of internet traffic in the US.

However, the move follows a difficult period for the company shedding 800,000 customers in the third quarter of last year.

The US-based service launched in 2007 and has more than 20 million online subscribers in 47 countries.

Films will be available on a variety of platforms, including games consoles, smartphones and tablets.

Netflix is betting on a breadth of locally produced content including full seasons of UK favourites such as Top Gear, The Only Way is Essex, The Inbetweeners and Torchwood.

But chief executive Reed Hastings was guarded when it came to setting specific UK goals for the new service.

"We think about it as trying to get to millions of members over the next few years. We very much think of it as a long-term investment," he told the BBC.

Strong rivals

Competition in the UK market is expected to be fierce. Lovefilm recently announced that it was experiencing its fastest customer growth rate since 2009.

Mr Hastings is aware of the challenge facing Netflix as it expands.

Reed Hastings: "We have more content than Lovefilm"

"The big competitor in the UK for us is Sky Movies and Sky Atlantic," he said.

"Lovefilm is mostly DVD by post... and we're both really competing with Sky."

Lovefilm also provides a streaming service for its subscribers which launched in 2009.

However, Mr Hastings was confident Netflix would be able to attract UK consumers: "Relative to each of our competitors we have different differentiators, but Netflix is a very focused on streaming and we do it really well."

Lovefilm's growth comes at a difficult time for Netflix.

The firm lost 61% of its market value in 2011. However, Mr Hastings remained positive saying that the US loss was due to a change in DVD rental but added "our streaming in the US has been wildly successful".

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