Hastings says Netflix has invested in 180 originals from the SE Asia region

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Netflix's mandate is that its shows be produced in local languages around the globe. (Pixabay/Creative Commons CC0)

Speaking at a cross-cultural event in South Korea yesterday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that since Netflix launched in the country three years ago, it has invested in over 180 Netflix originals from the Southeast Asia region, “almost all of which have been commissioned by local content executives who know the culture and speak the language.”

“In total, our shows have been filmed in 19 cities in Korea and 12 more across Southeast Asia, including Bangkok, Penang, Bali; and we’ve created work for over 8,000 producers, cast and crew,” he said.

Netflix likes to work with local creators, and the company has really expanded the boundaries of where video content gets created. In some cases, it produces its own shows like Love Alarm from Korea, The Stranded – its first series from Thailand, or Ghost Bride from Malaysia. In other cases, Netflix licenses films or series from partners including local broadcasters like KBS, MBC, SBS in Korea; Mediacorp in Singapore; ABS-CBN in the Philippines; Media Prima in Malaysia, and GMM Grammy in Thailand.

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Hastings also talked a bit about how Netflix uses its technology to disseminate international content.

“We work with partners across the region, for example pay-TV providers like CJ Hello and LGU+, Internet service providers like AIS and device manufacturers such as Samsung and LG, to ensure that Netflix works whether it is on smart TVs or smartphones," he said. "And that it works to the best quality possible, whether it’s a fiber connection or a slower mobile signal.”

Language is also a challenge when creating international content. Subtitles and dubbing are critical for that. “To date we sub and dub into 30 languages, including Korean, Thai, Bahasa...and two months ago we launched Vietnamese,” Hastings said.

Finally, he cited a recent survey of 56,000 ASEAN young people that found over 50% of them feel the need to upgrade their skills. In that regard, Netflix is holding workshops in Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand that help develop local writing and filming skills. These workshops are run with partners such as the Korea Animation Producers Association, Thailand’s National Federation of Motion Pictures, and Malaysia’s Digital Economy Corporation.

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At a SeriesFest event in Denver in June, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said, “We produce a ton of content in local language all over the world. Our mandate on those shows is that they’re incredibly local.”

He said audiences are responding to the authenticity of the people doing the storytelling. “For generations English language content has dominated TV watching all over the world,” said Sarandos. “You would run out of storytellers if that was always going to be the case.”