When President Obama announced in December that Cuba and the U.S. would no longer be giving each other the silent treatment, it seemed like only a matter of time before Americans were puffing on Cuban cigars and Cubans were toasting in Havana with some sort of high-fructose American carbonated beverage. In retrospect, importing Netflix does seem slightly easier.
On Monday, that’s exactly what happened when the online video-subscription service went live in Cuba, offering an amended menu of its movies and TV shows. It’s yet another reminder of the astonishing speed at which the historic thaw has taken place. Netflix’s plunge into the Cuban market is, for now, largely symbolic. On the Cuban side, however, the symbolism is significant. The Cuban government, after all, “owns and controls all broadcast media in Cuba, with private ownership of electronic media barred,” Bloomberg reports.
For Netflix, the decision to open up shop in Cuba, which has been off limits to American companies for some 50 years, is more aspirational than immediately lucrative. “Starting today, people in Cuba with Internet connections and access to international payment methods will be able to subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch a curated selection of popular movies and TV shows,” Netflix said in a statement on Monday.
Cuba has the Internet, but only sort of. Bloomberg reports that in 2013, the country only had 5,360 fixed broadband subscribers of a population of 11.3 million people. Unsurprisingly, the Internet in Cuba is also epically slow. But no matter, buffering House of Cards is better than no House of Cards at all! Netflix is offering its streaming service starting at $7.99 a month, which will make it prohibitively expensive for the 99 percent in Cuba, where the average monthly salary is about $20.