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Netflix streaming gets major overseas expansion

The home video company is spreading its streaming services across the Western Hemisphere to a total of 43 new countries. It's not just for the U.S. and Canada anymore.

Netflix, the Web's top video rental service, is branching out into 43 new countries in Latin America and the Caribbean later this year.

"Upon launch, Netflix members from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean will be able to instantly watch a wide array of American, local, and global TV shows...via a range of consumer electronics devices capable of streaming from Netflix, as well as on PCs, Macs, and mobile devices," Netflix said in a statement today.

News of the expansion sent Netflix's stock soaring. In midday trading, shares of the company's stock were up 6 percent, or up $16.95 to $284.89. That was good enough to top the company's previous 52-week high of $283.50.

Subscribers will be able to access Netflix in Spanish, Portuguese, or English. Netflix said the streaming offer in Latin America and the Caribbean will work the same way it does in the United States. Customers will pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to the company's streaming-video library.

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The move represents the largest international expansion for Netflix thus far. CEO Reed Hastings seems to have his eyes on the worldwide streaming-video market. The company launched in Canada last year.

Exactly how big a market there is in these countries for streaming content or how much revenue Netflix could generate is unclear. Netflix has said it is keeping a close eye on broadband adoption in other countries.

Dan Rayburn, an analyst covering Web video for consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, predicted in February that Netflix would enter Latin American countries soon or those which could boast large audiences equipped with Internet access fast enough to deliver streaming video. Here's a sample of which countries he says have those capabilities:

• Argentina: As of March 2010, the country had a 64 percent Internet penetration rate with 26.6 million users with an average broadband speed of 3.33Mbps.
• Brazil: As of December 2009, the country had a 37.8 percent Internet penetration rate with 75 million users with an average broadband speed of 4.46Mbps.
• Mexico: In 2010, the country had a 27 percent Internet penetration rate, with 30.6 million users with an average broadband speed of 3.54Mbps. (Rayburn offers a more complete list at his blog.

Rayburn described Latin America as a pretty rich market overall, with 156 million Internet users with access to 3.2Mbps bandwidth capability.

More to come.