On the release of the second season of House of Cards, it’s clear that Netflix has been funneling money into its original programming. What some viewers may not know is Netflix’s other growing business, lobbying congress.
Working with a host of influential law firms since 2005 according to the Center for Responsive Politics data, Netflix has been building up its lobbying presence year after year. In 2013 Netflix spent $1.2 million lobbying the federal government. The bulk of the funds went to a pair of lobbyists on the Netflix payroll including a former Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Though $1.2 million is a rounding-error compared to the company’s $6.5 billion 2013 content library, there have been other recent signs that Netflix is paying more attention to what is happening around the nation’s capital. Netflix and other providers of streaming video such as Amazon have a strong interest in “net neutrality” rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from privileging preferred content on the internet by throttling download speeds or blocking data access.
Following last month’s U.S. Appeals Court ruling that struck down FCC net neutrality rules, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote in a letter to shareholders that should ISPs decide to “impede the video streams” of Netflix subscribers or try extract a fee for unimpeded data flow, Netflix, “would vigorously protest and encourage our members,” to do the same.
This was not the first time that Netflix has made its presence known to federal regulators. In 2012, Netflix formed FLIXPAC, a Political Action Committee capable of donating up to $5,000 to federal candidates. Immediately after forming the PAC Netflix responded to critics concerned that FLIXPAC would be a vehicle to promote pair of bills known as SOPA and PIPA designed to facilitate the prosecution of intellectual property infringements with the statement:
PACs are commonplace for companies that lead a big, growing market and Netflix is no exception. Our PAC is a way for our employees to support candidates that understand our business and technology. It was not set up for the purpose of supporting SOPA or PIPA. Instead, Netflix has engaged on other issues including network neutrality, bandwidth caps, usage based billing and reforming the Video Privacy Protection Act.
With 34 million Americans subscribing to the $26 billion company’s services, truth may soon resemble fiction as Netflix works maintain its real-life “House of Cards.”