Netflix to spend US$500 million to crack the Asian market

Netflix to spend US$500 million to crack the Asian market
Dado Ruvic/Illustration, Reuters

On February 25, Netflix Inc. held an event in Seoul called “See What’s Next Korea,” which brought together several creative executives at Netflix as well as Korean directors to discuss and reveal Netflix’s current and future plans for South Korean content. At that event, Netflix announced that they were going to spend US$500 million on original content in South Korea this year, following the rapid growth of users in the country.

Netflix entered the South Korean market back in 2016 and has invested a total of US$700 million in original movies and television shows over the last five years. Some of the content has garnered international recognition including the South-Korean period horror series, “Kingdom” and the latest film “Space Sweepers.”

Regional Vice president of Content for Netflix Korea Kim Min-young, revealed that the streaming service had accumulated a total of 3.8 million subscriptions in South Korea alone and that the user growth was a primary factor into Netflix’s decision to continue investing in the market.

During the event, Kim spoke about the future projects, stating, “We are working with top talent and filmmakers as well as exciting emerging voices from across Korea to make best-in-class stories across every genre. We can’t wait for our members around the world to fall in love with these Korean stories.”

During the event, Netflix’s CO-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, said, “Over the last two years, we’ve seen the world falling in love with incredible Korean content, made in Korea and watched by the world on Netflix. Our commitment toward Korea is strong. We will continue to invest and collaborate with Korean storytellers across a wealth of genres and formats.”

Although the heavy investment might come as a shock to many, the reality is Netflix has already produced over 80 original Korean films and television shows. Asia is currently Netflix’s smallest region, trailing North America, Latin America and Europe.

With this investment, Netflix hopes that they are able to break into the Asian market and become more prominent in the region home to the largest continent and populated country in the world.

Sarandos said that Netflix has created over 200 original movies and series in Asia and that last year alone, the platform garnered 9.2 million customers in Asia, which brought its overall number of subscriptions to over 25 million. The majority of their growth in Asia has been from four countries: Japan, India, Australia, and South Korea with South Korea being the service’s third largest Asian markets in terms of sales, falling behind Australia and Japan.

According to consultancy Media Partners Asia, it is estimated that Netflix’s subscriber base in South Korea can grow up to 5 million by the end of 2021. Last year, South Korea counted for 15% of Netflix’s total revenue from Asia, and with this latest injection, this is predicted to increase to 17%.

Following the announcement, the first two Netflix Original Korean movies will be “Carter", an action film directed by Jung Byung-gil, and “Moral Sense,” a romantic drama helmed by Park Hyun-jin.

Although little is known about both projects, “Carter" is expected to focus on a man whose memory is gone after waking up in a motel. He hears a voice in his ear calling him Carter, and begins a mission to save a kidnapped girl. “Moral Sense” is adapted from the webtoon series of the same name, and is about an employee at a company whose kinky sexual fantasies are accidentally discovered by their female co-worker.

Films such as “The Call,” “Time to Hunt,” and the latest “Space Sweepers” were all films previously purchased by Netflix for granting global distribution rights, but “Carter”
and “Moral Sense” will be the first Korean films produced by Netflix themselves.

Several other South Korean productions are already lined up for a 2021 release, including one of their most anticipated series, “Hellbound,” which is helmed by “Train to Busan” director Yeon Sang-ho and led by actor Yoo Ah from “#Ailve.” Other original South Korean series expected to release this year include Netflix’s first ever Korean sitcom, “So Not Worth It,” zombie show, “All of Us Are Dead,” mystery-thriller series, “My Name,” military cop drama show “D.P.,,” drama series, “Move to Heaven,” action series, “Round Six,” the special episodic spin off prequel of “Kingdom,” titled, “Kingdom: Ashin of the North,” and Netflix original sci-fi drama film, “The Silent Sea.”

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