Is Netflix coming to Italy? Not any time soon if the comments at yesterday’s Venice Film Market panel, “VOD in China and Europe - What is the strategy for Netflix arrival”, are taken as the measure.

Guest speaker Giovanni Scatassa of RAI Cinema was outspoken about the infrastructure problems in Italy that have thus far dissuaded the American on-demand internet giant from establishing operations in the country. The American company has been expanding across the rest of Europe and has even recently announced its plans for new House of Cards-style drama called
Marseille to be made in France. So far, though, Italy continues to remain out of bounds.

“In Italy, we are not fearing the beginning of the Netflix era because we are desperately in search of financial resources,” Scatassa commented. “The situation in our country is very clear in terms of technical problems and economic problems.”

He pointed to the relatively low level of broadband penetration in the country and the lack of investment from companies like
Telecom Italia. Scatassa also noted that Telecom Italia’s first forays into SVOD (subscription video on demand) had been conducted in half hearted fashion.

“They didn’t start this operation with the necessary conviction,” he stated.

Unlike in other European countries, Italy doesn’t yet have a tradition of transactional video on demand - another reason why Scatassa believes VOD has been slow to take root.

“Italians don’t like to pay because piracy is very felt…many operators are really convinced that if we don’t develop on a large scale the usage of transactional video on demand, it will be very difficult for an operator like Netflix to start operations in Italy and be successful.”

To the Europeans, Netflix may seem like a giant but the company’s reach - it has around 44 million subscribers - is puny by comparison with that of another company represented at Saturday’s VFM panel. IQIYI, billed as China’s No. 1 Online Video Platform, is reported to reach a jaw dropping 100 million viewers every day in China.

Launched in 2010, IQIYI is the leading player in China’s mobile device streaming market. It provides users with new Hollywood blockbusters as well as with Chinese domestic films. Beijing-based IQIYI is expanding at ferocious pace.

The company aims to coproduce seven domestic features and one Hollywood film within a year. It has also just launched a sister company IQIYI Motion Pictures. This engages in film investment, market research, merchandising, gaming and even
operates ticketing services and ensures copyright protection.

As IQIYI exec Li Yansong told Venice Market delegates, “in China, we have lots of people…you can see on the metro and in other places, all the people have mobile devices and they are all watching TV shows.”