Netflix Inc. is refusing to provide the national broadcast regulator with a range of sensitive data about its online streaming operations in Canada, citing concerns the data might not be kept confidential.
On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) repeatedly sparred with a representative of Netflix, demanding that the company produce data about its revenue and viewership here or risk jeopardizing the status that exempts the popular online video site from the country's broadcast regulations.
The CRTC had ordered Netflix to produce the information in confidence as part of a major hearing into the future of television, dubbed Let's Talk TV, which concluded two weeks of hearings last week. Several companies and groups that made presentations at the hearing described Netflix as a threat to the traditional broadcasting system and urged the CRTC to force Netflix to contribute to supporting Canadian content.
"While Netflix has responded to a number of the CRTC's requests, we are not in a position to produce the confidential and competitively sensitive information ordered by the commission due to ongoing confidentiality concerns," said a statement provided Monday by Anne Marie Squeo, Netflix's director of corporate communications. "While the orders by the CRTC are not applicable to us under Canadian broadcasting law, we are always prepared to work constructively with the Commission."
The U.S.-based company's refusal sets up a standoff after the CRTC demanded wide-ranging information, including how much the company spends on productions created in Canada and how many Canadians are watching programs in the streaming service's "Canadian" category.
In a series of tense exchanges on Friday, the commission repeatedly ordered Netflix to produce data, or to ask for an extension, and in response Netflix sought guarantees that the information would be kept confidential given its potential value to competitors.
Netflix's refusal to hand over some information appears to stem from a dispute about whether or not the commission has the legal right to demand it. "You operate under an exemption order that requires you to provide information. Failure to provide information puts at risk your exemption order," Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, told Netflix representative Corie Wright at Friday's hearing. "So the commission is ordering you to provide the number of subscribers that you have currently in Canada by 5 p.m., Ottawa time, Monday."
Mr. Blais said the CRTC "provides confidential treatment to that information."
Ms. Wright, Netflix's global public policy director, replied by asking, "Can the panel guarantee confidential treatment of that information?"
"You are not entitled to special treatment," Mr. Blais said.
It is unclear whether the CRTC could revoke Netflix's exemption order, or what would result from such a move. But the issue of regulating online video services like Netflix is politically sensitive. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover have both made statements saying the federal government "will not allow any new regulations or taxes on Internet video."
A spokesperson for the CRTC declined to comment.