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Netflix Streaming Sundance Channel Mystery ‘Top of the Lake’

17 Apr, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

SVOD pioneer expected to report more than 29 million domestic subscribers when it releases first quarter financials April 22

Netflix has quietly begun streaming all episodes of The Sundance Channel’s  murder mystery, “Top of the Lake,” written and directed by Oscar winner Jane Campion, and starring Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) and Oscar winner Holly Hunter (“Saving Grace”), among others. Campion and Hunter teamed together in 1993 for the Oscar-winning movie, The Piano.

The critically acclaimed seven-part series just concluded its run on Sundance, whose parent, AMC Networks, has a license agreement with Netflix. The SVOD pioneer disclosed the news April 16 in a post on its Facebook page.

Moss stars as Detective Robin Griffin, who returns to her rural New Zealand home to investigate a missing 12-year-old girl. The case quickly escalates with Griffin encountering evil forces as well as her own troubled past.

Amazon is taking pre-orders for the "Top of the Lake" DVD, which retails for $34.98 from BBC Warner.

Separately, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter expects Netflix April 22 to report 29.2 million domestic streaming subscribers at the end of the first quarter (ended March 31), compared to guidance of 28.5 — 29.2 million subs. Pachter said the February debut of original series “House of Cards” and mid-March Facebook integration in the United States likely drove Netflix to the high end of domestic sub estimates.

“In our view, increased viewing likely reflects high-end subscriber numbers (enhanced by “Cards”), with approximately 5% higher average viewing per subscriber,” Pachter wrote in an April 17 note.

That said, the analyst contends Netflix faces a challenging second half of the year with its two remaining high-profile 2013 exclusives (“Hemlock Grove” on April 19 and rebooted “Arrested Development” on May 26) already launched.

In addition, Pachter said CEO Reed Hastings and senior management could face a difficult decision about whether to resume international expansion, which has the potential to improve long-term sub growth while forgoing near-term profitability.

Meanwhile, third-party competition from Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus and Redbox Instant by Verizon will continue to intensify.

“Although we expect top-line growth from modest subs growth, we believe rising content costs will limit [earnings per share] growth,” Pachter wrote.

Finally, Netflix said it will cease using Microsoft’s Silverlight browser, opting instead for the software giant’s HTML5 browser.

In a blog post, Anthony Park, director of engineering at Netflix, said plug-in browsers such as Silverlight pose potential problems to users, including their requirement in the first place to stream video; consumer concerns that third-party plug-ins pose a security risk; and that not all browsers support foreign plug-ins.

“Since Microsoft announced the end of life of Silverlight 5 in 2021, we need to find a replacement some time within the next eight years,” Park wrote. “We're interested to solve these problems as we move to our next generation of video playback on the Web.”



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