Netflix now available in Cuba

SAN FRANCISCO - Netflix launched its video streaming service in Cuba on Monday.

With the launch, Netflix becomes one of the first American businesses, and definitely one of the first Silicon Valley tech barons, to enter the island nation after the White House announced it was loosening a trade embargo that had been in place for more than half a century.

The California-based service noted that it aimed to bring a wide variety of “great global entertainment to Cuban consumers as Internet access improves and credit and debit cards become more widely available,” according to a release.

Netflix is charging Cuban customers $7.99 per month, the same rate as in the United States

But the average Cuban will be unable to afford the service as the average monthly salary for Cubans in 2013 was $20, which continued a recent upward trend. A Netflix subscription would eat up about 40 percent of that income.

In the short term, however, the service requires an international payment method as well as Web access, which is far less available in Cuba compared to its northern neighbor. 

“We are delighted to finally be able to offer Netflix to the people of Cuba, connecting them with stories they will love from all over the world,” Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement. “Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience of over 57 million members.”

Roughly 5 percent of Cubans have Internet access, according to the White House. Compared to more developed countries, the connections are slow and the government maintains strict censorship.

With its Cuban launch, Netflix clearly believes President Barack Obama’s recent bid to open up relations with the isolated country will lead to improved Web access and freedom.

Netflix announced Cuban customers will be able to watch hit original programming, including “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” alongside a “curated” collection of films and television shows similar to what the company offers in other Latin American markets.

Netflix has subscribers in nearly 50 countries across the globe.

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