Foreign-language content is finally getting its heyday

Foreign-language content is finally getting its heyday
FILE PHOTO: The Netflix series “Squid Game" is played on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Illustration

For a long time, most content meant for global consumption has been in English. Pick a year out of the past 50 for awards like the Emmys, and you’re not going to find many foreign-language TV shows (or films) topping the charts. But if you’ve lived abroad, you know that English-language content isn’t the only thing out there. Pick a region where English isn’t the native language, and you’re likely to find dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of TV shows and films with their own dedicated local following.

Well, Netflix seems to have caught on to the fact that audiences are interested in non-English content, and it’s looking to break into a new market to up its competitive edge. The best possible example is the insanely popular South Korean drama “Squid Game," which just won top honors at the Emmys for best actor and outstanding directing. The series cost around US$21 million to produce and captured viewers’ eyeballs for more than 1.65 billion hours in only four weeks, remaining at the top of Netflix’s watch list for months.

Tapping into this market has been a solid move for Netflix. Even though the company reported huge losses in subscribers in the first quarter of this year, it still experienced growth in one region – Asia Pacific – gaining over a million subscribers to the platform.

“Squid Game" isn’t the only foreign-language TV show Netflix has invested in. It’s also gotten traction with “La Casa de Papel" (“Money Heist"), “Lupin" and more. These shows have been successful not only in their target language markets but actually in plenty of other places where the language of the show isn’t spoken or understood.

Another benefit to some of these new titles is that they’re a lot cheaper to make. If you look at English-language shows like “The Mandalorian" or “Succession," you’ll notice the intensely-realistic CGI and massive sets. Foreign-language shows, though, open up a whole new world to viewers, gripping people largely by their quality narratives and talented performances and tapping into a much broader global talent pool.

Netflix isn’t the only company doing foreign-language content, but it’s having the most success at the moment. And for Netflix, it’s about survival; the introduction of massive names into the streaming industry like Disney+ and HBO Max has meant that Netflix, the once innovator in the industry, has had to find new avenues to thrive. And hey, if it means we get a season two of “Squid Game," we’re all for it.