Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Report of ‘A decade of Netflix in Europe: Lessons from a small media market’

Almost 10 years after the platform’s arrival in Europe, the SMIT Symposium takes account of Netflix’s development and current positioning in the EU. The online half-day event was organised by imec-SMIT-VUB, and showcased findings from recent and ongoing research projects on platforms and audiovisual markets.

The Symposium took a panoramic view of Netflix-related topics, from a wider European lens, to the occasional close-up on the small media market of Flanders. During the Symposium, findings from new and ongoing SMIT research projects, complemented with insights from international media scholars, were presented.



Global SVODS in Europe. Small markets, big deal? [Tim Raats]

Subscription VOD platforms have radically impacted the production, distribution and consumption of audiovisual content. For smaller audiovisual markets, these shifts generate additional pressure on an already fragile ecosystem, characterized by a limited domestic market, smaller budgets, and a significant dependence on traditional broadcasting and government funding for content investments. This presentation sets the scene for the Symposium; after briefly contextualizing important trends and the characteristics of small markets, we identify several challenges for audiovisual production and distribution.

Tim Raats is assistant professor at the Communication Sciences department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where he teaches several courses on media policy and economics and coordinates the Medialab of the department. Tim is head of the Media Economics and Policy Research unit at imec-SMIT-VUB (Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology). He specializes in policy and market research on production and distribution of audiovisual content in small media markets, EU media policy and public service media policy. Tim coordinated several research projects for the Minister of Media, the Flemish Department of Culture, Youth and Media, the Sector Council for Media in Flanders and VRT. He acted as senior consultant in research projects for Econopolis. Tim published widely in edited volumes and peer-reviewed journals. Since 2018, he is appointed member of the Board of Governors of the Flanders Audiovisual Fund.

The presentation (click on the presentation to view more):


The ‘Netflix Original’ and what it means for the production of European television content [Adelaida Afilipoaie]

The European audiovisual market has unique contextual characteristics that constrain the sustainability and development of audiovisual content. Among other shifts, the rise of global subscription VOD players like Netflix has been reshaping this market. Although Netflix has been investing in Europe, little is known about their actual investment strategies.  This presentation will shed light on Netflix original investments in European scripted series and examine their implications for the European market. Based on a mapping of all European Netflix Originals, we identify a typology of investment patterns. The presentation will touch upon this typology, the chronological evolution of Netflix investments, the volume of Netflix original investments in European productions, the countries receiving these investments, the genres, and their preferred broadcasting partners

Adelaida Afilipoaie is a PhD researcher at imec-SMIT-VUB, where she is investigating the platformisation phenomenon and how this is being dealt with at the European and national regulatory level. Her interest in online platforms is deeply rooted in her early academic years with research focused predominantly on video streaming platforms. Her PhD research focuses on national and European media and platform regulation and how these policies try to recalibrate the power relations between legacy media and media platforms in the audiovisual value chain, focusing on an analysis of policy cases and their economic and public interest purposes. Her expertise lies in qualitative research methods.

The presentation (click on the presentation to view more):


A European comparison of obligations on VOD providers [Marlen Komorowski and Ivana Kostovska]

The latest revision of the AVMSd came into force in autumn 2018. Based on this, many European countries have changed their legislation to oblige VOD services to financially contribute to the production of European works in diverse ways, from the introduction of new direct investments to levies. The study presented here updates SMIT’s previous report from the summer of 2018. The focus falls on new VOD investment obligations that have been implemented in the last years, or are being developed, highlighting a series of differences and similarities across Europe.

Prof. Dr. Marlen Komorowski is senior researcher at imec-SMIT-VUB and teaches European Media Markets at the Communication Sciences Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She works as impact analyst at Cardiff University for the Clwstwr project on innovation in the screen sector in the UK. Her research focusses on media and creative industry-related projects, industry clustering, economic geography, ecosystem analysis, new business models, media policy and the impact of the digitization on industries and firms. She has published her work in various A1 peer-reviewed international journals. Find out more about her research via

Ivana Kostovska is a media economics and management researcher at imec-SMIT-VUB and a PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. Her research is in the areas of film economics, audiovisual policy, strategic and innovation management in film and audiovisual industries and platform governance. As a researcher, she is involved in contract research for various stakeholders. Find out more about her research via

The presentation (click on the presentation to view more):


Patterns in streaming behaviour of young Flemish audiences in times of ‘lockdown’ [Stephanie Tintel]

Will you watch No Time To Die in the cinema or via a streaming service? While the lockdown limited most of the socio-cultural activities, streaming consumption grew exponentially. The lockdown has fundamentally changed the ways we consume media. We sent out a survey (March 2021) to question a representative sample of the Flemish population (20-34 years) about their current cinema-going motivations and streaming habits. The presentation will particularly focus on the insights we gained about streamed viewing frequency (films and series), preferred outlets, the popularity of Netflix and Flemish services, potential service uptake, willingness to pay, the key drivers and motivations for watching particular content and subscribing to a streaming service.

Stephanie Tintel is a PhD researcher and teaching assistant at the Department of Communication Sciences of imec-SMIT-VUB. Her doctoral research questions the lasting importance of the theatrical window for a film’s value chain. She is analysing the trends and patterns of the film industry before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, she conducts quantitative research into the changing audiovisual consumption preferences of Flemish audiences. Her research aims to contribute to long-term success and managerial strategies for film exhibition (theatrical release) in small media markets. At the Department, she assists with qualitative and quantitative research methods.

The presentation (click on the presentation to view more):


Branding diversity: On the corporate and cultural strategy at the heart of Netflix’s global expansion [Axelle Asmar]

In 2021, Netflix released its first-of-a-kind diversity and inclusion study analysing the makeup of Netflix’s on-screen talent, as well as the behind-the-camera creators, producers, writers, and directors for content released during 2018 and 2019. With this report, Netflix purposefully wants to set itself as the benchmark of an industry increasingly under fire for its lack of diversity and inclusion. This presentation looks at the branding strategy of Netflix and argues that Netflix’s corporate emphasis on diversity and inclusion is a key apparatus to its global expansion, and to the strengthening of its foothold in global markets. Therefore, this presentation first analyses how this branding strategy is being deployed in various markets; second, it opens up critical questions as to the potential consequences of this strategy for a) local creative industries and b) local (young) audiences in their relations to cultural identity and legacy media.

Axelle Asmar is a PhD researcher and teaching assistant within the Department of Communication Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Her research focuses on transnational media cultures and cultural identity among young audiences. Concretely, at a time when transnational platforms such as Netflix have become an intrinsic part of contemporary consumer culture, what (new) forms of media cultures are initiated by these platforms? How are ideas of national (cultural) identity reshaped by these (new) forms of media cultures? Find out more about her research via

The presentation (click on the presentation to view more):


Local strikes back? A comparison of streaming offerings in Flanders [Catalina Iordache]

As the number of available streaming platforms in Flanders is growing, so is the demand for more information on their offerings: which platform has the largest catalogue, or the largest selection of documentaries? This presentation compares the offerings of several streaming platforms, based on the size of the catalogues, the country of origin, and the type of content offered, with particular emphasis on the differences between local and US platforms.

Catalina Iordache is a PhD researcher in media and communication studies at the research group imec-SMIT-Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and a teaching assistant for the Bachelor’s in Social Sciences programme. She is currently writing her dissertation on the transnational flow of audiovisual content in the online environment, with a focus on media policy, and the production and distribution of audiovisual content. Her previous research topics include media literacy, digital literacy, and e-inclusion. Find out more about her research via


Roads ahead: key questions in research on international platforms [Catherine Johnson]

This concluding talk addresses key challenges for scholars and media industries, highlighting the need to expand the scope of analysis beyond Netflix, as well as awarding enhanced attention to elements of content prominence and discoverability, the response of media regulation, and the reshaping of audience research.

Catherine Johnson is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Huddersfield, UK and is internationally recognised for her research on television and the screen industries. She has written/edited six books and many articles. Her most recent book, Online TV, examines the rise of internet-distributed television and its impact on the TV industry and regulation. She frequently works with industry and regulators and was special advisor to the DCMS Select Committee’s inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting in 20/21. Her current research examines the impact of platformisation on PSM.



Were you not able to attend the Symposium? You can watch the recording of the Symposium in this video.