The cost of Netflix’s political win: $1 million in lobbying over two years and its own PAC

The cost of Netflix’s political win: $1 million in lobbying over two years and its own PAC

Netflix has a win under its belt heading into 2013: its users will soon be able to share their video viewing history through social channels. A small feature one might think, but the company has been fighting for the capability for most of the year.

At issue was the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which banned the sharing of a person’s video rental history without written consent. Once the President signs off on a new bill that has surged through the chambers of Congress, Netflix users will be able to digitally say yea, and thus share their viewing habits on Facebook as they might broadcast their current Spotify favorites.

For a more granular look at how Congress finally pulled the law together, Talking Points Memo has the piece of record.

The change to the VPPA has been Netflix’s “top lobbying priority in Washington,” said The Hill in July. Netflix has spent more than $1,000,000 lobbying in 2011 and 2012. However, the company’s political activities are in fact broader than a lobbying spend: Netflix has its own Political Action Committee (PAC).

FLIXPAC, the catchily named political vehicle, was formed earlier this year. However, the PAC has been all but silent since its formation. TNW was unable to uncover any record of recent activity. Despite that opacity, we do have a key statement from the time of its formation as to what the PAC was designed to work on:

FLIXPAC was NOT set up to support SOPA/PIPA. Instead, we engage on issues like net neutrality, bandwidth caps, UBB and VPPA.

The statements concerning SOPA date the sentence. Among the listed goals, work on VPPA has been accomplished. Netflix’s PAC will therefore, presumably, focus on net neutrality and bandwidth caps moving forward. Those are not small goals, and place the firm directly opposed to Verizon in its legal agenda. Comcast is also an opponent.

TNW assumes that as the PAC’s listed goals included updating the VPPA, it took part in its parent company’s efforts on the measure.

It’s key to realize that Netflix has managed not a coup, but a somewhat standard political maneuver: it spent, and got through Congress what it wanted. There were more players involved, and the company was not alone in its goals, but between its PAC and lobbying efforts, the company won.

Technology is now a political realm. Increasingly large spends by technology firms on political efforts – sometimes on opposite sides – and the newly formed Internet Association underscore the simple fact that policy is now a key part technological operations.

TNW expects this trend to continue, and strengthen. Technology firms: prepare your wallets.

Top Image Credit: ttarasiuk

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