Indonesia's Telkom Group unblocks Netflix as it amps digital push

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Indonesia’s state owned telecoms firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia said on Tuesday it has unblocked streaming giant Netflix, after four years of negotiations.

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of diplayed Netflix logo in this illustration taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Telkom said the decision came after a “change in the U.S. company’s approach to the country”. This includes Netflix offering parental controls as well as agreeing to examine complaints from Indonesia’s government or regulators over content within 24 hours.

After Netflix launched in January 2016 in Indonesia, it ran afoul of the Indonesia’s film censorship board in 2016 for carrying content deemed inappropriately violent or sexual. It was subsequently blocked by Telkom, who said it would continue blocking the service until it adhered the country’s regulations.

The world’s largest Muslim-majority country, with a youthful population of 270 million, is experiencing a boom in its digital economy, which is seen reaching $130 billion by 2025, according to a study by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company.

State-owned Telkom, which operates a mobile carrier with 170 million mobile subscribers as well as a home internet company, is aiming to increase the availability of content providers to its users.

Netflix business development manager Tizar Patria Irsyadi said in a statement that they were “delighted that Netflix is now accessible through Telkom.”

“We look forward to continually improving our service for all Indonesians as we introduce more local shows on our service,” he noted.

The announcement comes the same day that Netflix was named as among several foreign internet firms that would be required to pay a 10% value-added tax in the country, which a spokesman for the U.S. company said it would comply with.

Telkom’s vice president for corporate communications, Arif Prabowo, said he hoped that Netflix would advance the country’s entertainment industry by increasing the number of local productions.

Prabowo separately told Reuters that as part of its digital push Telkom had held discussions with Disney’s Disney+ platform, but that no agreement had yet been reached.

Disney+ is currently in the middle of a hiring spree in the region and is expected to launch in Southeast Asia as early as 2021.

Disney was not immediately reachable for comment.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin