Streaming Services Expand Internationally
Tech Companies Bet on Local-Language Content
Netflix (NFLX), Walt Disney (DIS), and Amazon (AMZN) have set their sights on international markets, pouring resources into developing local content.
This trend is a departure from the traditional way movies and television shows from the US are distributed internationally. Historically, content is produced in Hollywood studios and sent overseas either with subtitles or dubbed audio. But now streaming platforms are spending billions of dollars to create content which caters to specific international markets.
Streaming giants are developing content in local languages which fits into local cultural contexts. There has recently been a boom in new movies and TV shows produced in languages including Hindi, French, Portuguese, and Polish. This trend is also weakening the importance of American content on the global entertainment stage.
Streaming Subscriptions Boom Outside US
Streaming giants have good reason for turning their attention to international markets. The number of international streaming subscribers surpassed 1.1 billion in 2020. Four years ago the subscription rate stood at less than 400 million.
Netflix’s expansion overseas, the international launch of Disney +, and the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the spike in international streaming customers. For Netflix’s first quarter, 89% of its new customers came from markets outside the US and Canada. As of March, 38% of the new content Netflix is developing is in a non-English language. The company also recently announced it is investing $500 million to create local language content in South Korea.
More International Content to Come
Disney and Amazon are also creating original content in local languages. Of Disney’s new content in development, 24% is based outside of the US. That’s a big jump considering only 3% of its content was international as of mid-March 2021. Disney+ is available in 59 countries and has more than 100 million subscribers. Earlier this year Disney said it would spend $9 billion per year by 2024 to produce Disney+ content, including 50 international projects.
Since 2017 Amazon has doubled the amount of local language content it produces each year. Amazon Prime’s streaming service has more than 200 million subscribers, and international subscriber growth in 2020 increased 80%.
Streaming platforms got a boost during the pandemic as people around the world looked for ways to entertain themselves while social distancing. As some in-person entertainment options return, streaming companies are now finding new ways to keep up their momentum. All these major US streaming companies see international markets as a promising way to grow.
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