Muscat: Netflix, the world's leading internet TV service, is now available in Oman.
Residents of the Sultanate, along with those in 190 other countries, can now enjoy television programmes and movies starting at a price of about OMR3 per month, with the first month being free.
While Netflix promises to provide a variety of shows and movies for subscribers, as well as those not usually available in Oman, some shows will continue to not be seen in the Sultanate.
House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Suits, Better Call Saul, Battlestar Galactica and White Collar have not yet been made available for streaming, according to company officials.
Omani locals and residents quickly registered their accounts with Netflix and began ‘binge watching’ their favourite and, otherwise, previously unavailable programs on the internet TV service,in spite of concerns that the government could block the service.
“I have been binge watching different shows and movies, just in case,” said Emad Al Harthy, while concerned about the termination of the service by the Omani government.
Others have argued that since it is a legal service provider, there should not be any reason for it to be blocked.
Subscriber Abhishek Pandey said, “I’m definitely excited; but I hope it doesn’t get blocked. I don’t see why it would. It’s a legal service and you pay to watch.”
Others said they would not be surprised if the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) might block it.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they block it, since there’s no way for them to ‘regulate’ the service and receive incentives. TRA doesn’t care much about regulation, quality of service or consumer satisfaction; it’s an authoritarian body which operates freely under government control,” said Faisal Al Zadjali, adding, “Netflix, on the other hand, is a great service and it would be sad if access to it is blocked.”
“It's still early to comment as a lot of content is yet to reach the worldwide audience. But Middle East market is very important for Netflix too, and their only concern is for artistic value they prefer not to censor anything out from their shows,” Umran Sheikh said.
“But I doubt if it'll get blocked, firstly Netflix was planning on having some sort of operational team in the UAE for the smooth flow of their operations in the region. And secondly the DVDs and Blu-Rays which have been available in the region from long usually have such scene, only certain movies have been blocked in the region usually because of the content of the plot,” he added.
“But then movies which might have nudity do make it make it on the shelves still. Even games are getting a lot of adult content in them and even they are allowed most of the time,” Sheikh said.
In the past, the government has blocked several video messaging and internet calling applications.
According to a Netflix press release, the company made the announcement about its worldwide service, and the programming went live, during a keynote address by Co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings at Consumer Electronics Show 2016.
While largely available in English in most new countries, Netflix has also added Arabic, Korean, as well as Simplified and Traditional Chinese, to the 17 languages it already supports.
With over 70 million members in more than 190 countries, Netflix will still not be available in China, though the company continues to explore options for providing the service, the Netflix media centre reported.
It also will remain unavailable in Crimea, North Korea and Syria, due to US government restrictions on American companies operating in those countries.
Netflix is available on virtually any device that has an Internet connection, including personal computers, tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and gaming consoles.
Many titles, including Netflix original series and films, are available in high-definition with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound, and some in Ultra HD 4K.
Subscribers view more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films.
Officials note that viewers can play, pause and resume watching without commercials or contractual commitments.