It was 2016 when Netflix first arrived in Asia, and started its library of Asian shows.
In 2018, the streaming service released Netflix Originals from this region starting with crime thriller Sacred Games from India, anime Devilman Crybaby from Japan and South Korea’s variety comedy Busted!
On Dec 28, it will release yet another original series: Selection Day, a story set in India that’s based on the 2016 novel written by Aravind Adiga.
Last month, during a two-day content showcase called “See What’s Next: Asia” in Singapore, the streaming giant unveiled it has many more Asian original titles that are at various stages of production, scheduled to premiere in 2019.
Its CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix invests in Asian stories and storytellers not only to amplify their voices to the world, but to connect people around the world.
“We are producing stories and sharing them, as they build connections,” said Hastings. “You see all the different ways people lead their lives around the world, and realise we are also similar in many ways.”
Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for the company, added: “The beauty of Netflix is that we can take never-seen-before stories from South Korea, Thailand, Japan, India, Taiwan or elsewhere, and easily connect them to people all over Asia and the world.
“More than half of Asian content hours viewed on Netflix this year are viewed outside the region, so we have confidence that our upcoming slate of Asian productions will find fans in their home countries and abroad.”
Edge of entertainment
The Internet entertainment service’s global presence is quite remarkable; it has 130 million paid memberships in over 190 countries, catering to varied tastes and demands for a richer TV viewing experience.
One of the reasons the brand grew so rapidly is thanks to its introduction of how viewers could consume content – binge-watch.
The first Netflix Original to give us that was House Of Cards, which released all 12 episodes of its first season on the same day, Feb 1, 2013.
“House Of Cards is what made Netflix a success,” said Sarandos. “It transformed the way we told stories, when all the episodes came out at the same time. It’s the grandfather of on-demand television.”
The show allowed Netflix to break through at the Emmy Awards; House Of Cards received nine nominations, making it the first streaming show to earn a series nod. In five years, Netflix has earned 225 Emmy nominations and won 43, as stated in a Los Angeles Times article.
At the Singapore event, House Of Cards actress Robin Wright recalled that she had no interest in doing another long-running TV series after having worked on the 1980s daytime soap opera Santa Barbara for four years, amounting to 536 episodes.
She said: “But when (director) David Fincher asked, ‘Don’t you want to be part of the revolution?’ I had to get on that train and I am thankful for the experience. We became like a family while making this six-year long movie.”
House Of Cards’ sixth and final season was released on Nov 2, with its very last episode directed by Wright. Although the series’ focus is on American politics, its themes of politics, sex and greed are universal.
“The Art Of War was always the series blueprint, which is how politics works in every country,” the 52-year-old actress reasoned.
When asked if she felt the impact of her character around the world, Wright answered in affirmative. “Everywhere I go, I am always shocked how many people know Claire.”
Stories that travel
Netflix finds its fresh content by enticing “creators with vision”.
This has resulted in binge-worthy shows like Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, The Haunting Of Hill House, Mindhunter and Narcos to name a few.
At the Singapore event, filmmakers share that Netflix not only provides a wider platform, due to its massive subscribers, the company does not interfere with the creative process, even when a show pushes boundaries.
This, in turn, has attracted certified movie stars to migrate temporarily to Netflix. Other than Wright, Netflix has lured A-listers like Sandra Bullock, Chris Hemsworth, Will Smith and Chris Pine to be part of the brand’s family.
Eric Newman, the executive producer of Narcos, elaborated: “Netflix allowed us a couple of things – to tell a story with subtitles, to shoot in Colombia and to tell a story that humanises (drug kingpin) Pablo Escobar. Netflix put tremendous faith in us, and we got to be part of global television.
He continued: “It’s an exciting time in television.
“My own experience now is, I don’t know what show is when. I find out what’s coming and binge-watch. I watch in a period of a week and move on. And it has been a more rewarding TV watching experience and there’s a wealth of shows, from Italy, Germany, Asia, etc.
“That we are watching the same thing, at the same time, makes the world a little smaller.”