Storytelling is an important part of what it means to be human. We remember the stories our parents told us as children: tales that enabled us to learn and make sense of life. And how even as adults, stories help us build empathy and a shared understanding of the world.
The ability to build tools sets humans apart too. From the printing press and the motion picture to radio, TV and the Internet, technology has enabled art and culture to spread beyond the people or countries who created it. In fact, it’s this melding of art and technology that got Netflix started over 20 years ago. We began life as a DVD by mail company. In 2007, as broadband speeds started to increase, we switched to streaming—enabling consumers to watch shows on their own schedule.
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People took to streaming quicker than we ever imagined. They love being in control of what and when they watched. It’s why we make the entire TV series available at launch so people can watch as little or as much as they want at once, all with no ads. We also provide controls for parents so that they can decide what their children watch.
Since that initial reinvention—from DVDs to the Internet—we’ve had to reinvent ourselves twice over. In 2013, we started to make our own shows. And then in 2016, we switched from a North American-only service to one that serves audiences across 190 countries. Netflix has developed very differently from most other TV companies or studios as a result.
While US entertainment companies typically view “international” as an export market for American content, we’ve seen how great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere. From The Night Comes For Us, an Indonesian action movie, and Furie, Vietnam’s official submission for the 2020 Oscars to The Stranded, our first Thai original series, The Ghost Bride from Malaysia and Dead Kids from The Philippines.
Since launching in Asia three years ago, we’ve invested in over 180 Netflix originals across the region, almost all of which have been commissioned by local content executives, who live locally, know the culture and speak the language. In total, our shows have been filmed in 12 cities across South East Asia, including Bali, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Penang, creating work for over 8,000 producers, cast and crew.
Our goal with every show or film we commission—whether it’s Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, or American—is to ensure that the creator has the freedom to tell their story the way they want. Artistic expression is key to authenticity, and it’s authenticity which audiences love. However, once we have an authentic, original story, we need to get it in front of people, wherever they live, whatever their language.
That’s where our technology comes in. We work with partners across the region—pay-TV providers like CJ Hello and LG Uplus, ISPs such as AIS and device manufacturers like Samsung and LG—to ensure Netflix works whether you’re on a smart TV with a fiber connection or a basic smartphone with a 3G signal.
To ensure that shows which are “Made in Korea” or “Thailand” or “Malaysia” can be “Watched by the World,” we need to speak everyone’s language. Subtitles and dubbing are critical to making that connection. To date we sub and dub into 30 languages, including Korean, Thai, Bahasa, and two months ago we launched Vietnamese.
Asia is one of the greatest centers of art and entertainment in the world. It’s creative and engineering talent is second to none, pioneering new kinds of stories and new technologies, from which we can all benefit. In partnership with the World Economic Forum, we’re working to help support the next generation of creative talent with writing and filming workshops in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thanks to this region’s creativity, viewers and listeners, fashionistas and cooks anywhere in the world can now discover the depth and diversity of Asian culture, art and food. At Netflix, we’re excited to be part of this Asian-wave: ensuring more cultures are reflected on screen; building greater empathy between countries; and increasing our understanding of the world through storytelling.
Reed Hastings is co-founder and CEO of Netflix, the world's leading streaming entertainment service. He recently gave a speech about these ideas at the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in Busan, Korea. Netflix partnered locally with the likes of Viva and Globe studios, bringing Mikhael Red’s first Netflix film Dead Kids to the platform. The Philippines was also part of the Post-Production workshop to elevate its capabilities in the creative industry. This is part of Netflix’s promise to Southeast Asia during the World Economic Forum