By Charles Capouet and Maria Todorova

The Franklin County Circuit Court held that Netflix’s subscription-based streaming video service was not subject to Kentucky’s gross revenues tax, excise tax and school tax (telecommunications taxes) imposed on “multichannel video programming service” (MVPS).  Under Kentucky law, MVPS is programming “provided by or generally considered comparable to programming provided by a television broadcast station” and includes cable television service. The court held that Netflix’s streaming video service is ”a vast departure from the linear programming model of traditional cable or broadcast television services” because: (1) it does not provide content in a multichannel format; (2) its content is not linear or sequential programming, i.e., Netflix does not offer or provide content on any predetermined or set schedule; (3) it does not deliver live content; (4) it does not own any facilities or infrastructure capable of transmitting or delivering its streaming service to its customers; and (5) it “enables the customer to craft an entirely unique and personal profile and viewing experience.” The court reasoned that it would be unreasonable to conclude that the General Assembly intended its legislative enactment “to subject to taxation every possible new technological development in the field of transmitting digital content for personal enjoyment.” Therefore, the court concluded that Netflix’s streaming video service is not an MVPS and therefore not subject to Kentucky’s telecommunications taxes. Fin. & Admin. Cabinet, Kentucky Dep’t of Revenue v. Netflix, Inc., No. 15-CI-01117 (Franklin Cnty. Cir. Ct. Aug. 23, 2016).