A Date with Netflix

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Ikenna Bede

For a long time, I envied my friends in the United States of America and hated how they subtly but constantly reminded me of certain limitations of life in Nigeria. Every other week in group chats, I was tortured by their narratives of television shows and movies (that were yet to hit the cinemas in Nigeria) streamed on Netflix. Problem with Netflix at the time was its unavailability in Nigeria.

I remember a time when Onyinye literally transcribed an entire episode of ‘Orange is the New Black,’ making me stare hopelessly at my phone. She texted as though I knew all the characters and forcefully made me tag along.

I had concluded it was a thing with Nigerians overseas and their pretentious attitude of not remembering where they were before leaving for America; acting like everything became automatically fixed in Nigeria as soon as they left the country.
To make matters worse, she advised me to watch the next episode on Netflix and hoped that we could chat about it the following week. She signed off, saying, “It would be so much fun next week if we discussed.”

Like a phantom, the thoughts of not having access to Netflix haunted me. I saw meme inspired by the catch phrase ‘Netflix and chill’ everywhere: on Instagram pages, Twitter hashtags and Facebook timelines. For once, I thought I was locked away from the rest of the world and it kept me pondering why Africa’s most populous country didn’t have access to Netflix. I wondered as well why the guys at Netflix didn’t realise how profitable coming to Nigeria would be. Someone wasn’t crunching those numbers right.

I arranged meetings with my programmer to help me create a mask for my IP address. They did sort out some issues but my internet only worked when they were around. It was a curse, looming only in their absence – I had given up on their half-baked solution. But, hey, it was something I had to live with, until this pleasant turnaround.

The New Year came with a lot, and with it was Netflix. With so much excitement, I rashly perused an article about Netflix’s launch in Nigeria. It entailed details on how to subscribe. Immediately I teleported to the Netflix website and registered on the platform, then gained access to their rich collection of films and series. With so much to pick from, I decided to go with ‘Orange is the New Black.’

I wanted to teach Onyinye some serious transcribing lessons and to show her who the boss is. I was highly impressed; the visuals were impeccable: clear with crystal sound. I savoured this moment, hoping it wouldn’t come to an end. Eventually it did and with a reality check too. I had spent over 75 per cent of my data allocation on a single episode. I felt betrayed and uninformed. How could this be happening? But it was just one episode. Just one.

Recovering from the shock, I decided to get my education on track. I read through the entire terms and conditions. The revelations after the recitation were rather underwhelming. I realised that I was on a free trial period valid for one month. Thereafter, I was expected to pay between $7.99 and $11.99 monthly subscription; this caused my hand to reflex towards a nearby calculator.

In a flash, I remembered all the websites I always visited for free music and films, although, not of high definition quality, but it served the purpose as I was entertained. In order to keep up with my American friends, I was convinced that a mere eight dollars could not stop my fun, until the conversion to naira came up. This ultimately meant spending 25 per cent of my income on data and subscription fee. It was a lot to keep up with, but I needed it one way or the other. I needed a voice in group chats. I could not be ousted by friends just because they think America made them better. I had to prove my worth through Netflix. Since, they have made it the in-thing, I don’t want to be out of our social circle.

Going by the N18000 monthly income of the average Nigerian worker, subscribing may not be such a big hole in the pocket, but it would definitely mean cancelling out one item or another on my need list. Ultimately, I look forward to the day when the Naira would make a big gain on the Dollar. I also desire to see the day when telecommunications and internet service providers become more humane with their tariff. While I wait, I guess I have to sit through Onyinye’s torturous transcribing class.