Joshua Fruhlinger,Digital Trends Sat, Sep 1 3:15 AM PDT
Last month, Netflix missed its projections for the first time, adding only 674,000 subscribers domestically and 4.47 million internationally. That number was about 1 million less than the company had forecast. Investors panicked, stock prices of the company tumbled, and finance news headlines were made.
But as far as I’m concerned, those numbers are a good thing for you and me. Let me explain why.
Netflix added 4.47 million subscribers internationally compared to just 674,000 in the United States. Those numbers aren’t what investors had hoped for, but when we look at internal moves the company is making, we begin to understand what its future may hold — and then wax poetic about what that may mean for all of us.
I’ll spoil it for you: The future is very, very bright when it comes to Netflix content selection and streaming. That’s because we’re seeing the growth of an international brand that is focused on developing original content from different nations and cultures from a diverse group of creative producers from around the world.
In other words, the days of not finding anything to watch on Netflix will soon be over.
Breaking outside the U.S.
If it sounds like I’m drinking the Netflix Kool-Aid, I’ll take that hit, but let’s first look at the data before I get my full sentence.
As I reported last week at Thinknum Media, Netflix hiring has been on a tear for the better part of two years. Any growth in hiring at just any company tends to be good news for those who like the products the company is making. In the case of Netflix, hiring activity is about as healthy as it can get.
In early 2017, Netflix had about 250 job openings listed on its careers site. As of this week, the company lists 568. In other words, Netflix is looking for more than twice as many people as it was less than two years ago.
According to LinkedIn, Netflix employs about 5,400 people full time as of December 2017. The number of people who claim Netflix as an employer on LinkedIn has doubled in the past three years.
“That’s all well and good, Josh,” you say. “But what about those slowing subscriber growth numbers? Isn’t Netflix just getting tired now, and aren’t people just getting tired of Netflix?”
Sure, that may be true. But when we look past the healthy hiring numbers I included above and look into where Netflix is hiring, we begin to see the picture of a company poised for international expansion, and, as a result, poised to deliver some of the best multicultural and multilingual content we’ve ever seen.
In the aforementioned report I did for Thinknum Media last week, I broke down the number of Netflix job openings by country. In doing so, I uncovered a pattern that reveals aggressive hiring in Asia.
Netflix hiring in Singapore, Japan, Korea, and India has doubled since the New Year. And Netflix isn’t just looking to fill offices in those countries with a legion of desk jockeys who push content Netflix already has. It’s looking for local marketers to research and bring original shows to hungry local audiences. It’s hiring producers to actually make these new shows and movies. It’s hiring lawyers, PR folks, and financial planners. It’s setting up well rounded, expansion-ready businesses in Asia.
In Japan, for example, among Netflix’s current 15 openings, 7 are for positions in marketing, followed by 2 in financial planning and production, respectively.
So what does this all mean? It means that Netflix’s next move, if all of these numbers tell us anything (and they do), is building a global team of content creators and curators. They will turn what is already a rich selection of content into something that’s more international, more multicultural, and, at the end of the day, more interesting.
Now back to the Kool-Aid. This may again read like I’m chilling with Netflix a bit too hard here, but what we’re seeing is Netflix making a move to get ahead of the criticism. Like many people, I often have a hard time finding anything I really want to watch when I log in to Netflix. All too often I browse, browse, check another category, see nothing that appeals to me at the time, and log out. When I do find something I like, I binge it away into “already saw” territory. Rinse and repeat.
But lately the best new shows on Netflix (at least in my estimation) and the ones I hear my friends chat about come from far off lands. I have more than one friend addicted to Japan’s Terrace House. I personally just got over a binge problem with Sacred Games, Netflix’s first original from India.
In fact, Digital Trends’ current list of the best shows on Netflix is chock-full of shows and movies from Canada, England, Japan, and Scotland. And that’s just based on the American iteration of Netflix. As Netflix sets its sights on countries like Japan and hires local content teams there, we’ll eventually get more Terrace House, Aggretsuko, and Midnight Diner (watch Midnight Diner— trust me on this one).
That’s a good thing. That’s less time spent in the “seen that” zone and more time in the “holy crap this is good and I didn’t even notice there are subtitles” happy place.
Netflix is already in 190 countries. Its market penetration in the United States is highest at around 65 percent, according to Emarketer. Meanwhile, its penetration in the UK is measured to be only around 34 percent. In Japan, according to an RBC survey, only 5 percent of Japanese respondents said they watched Netflix. That’s up from 3 percent in 2017, but what it really shows is that Netflix has a long way to go in places Japan. It has a massive opportunity there now that it’s seen how well Japanese original programming can do for the network, not just locally but around the world.
If the future means a Netflix that’s producing content from around the world and making it all available globally, sign me up. Again.
Consider this final statistic: According to the same RBC study, 88 percent of Japanese respondents said that original content is what would influence them to sign up for a streaming service.
And if that means better shows and movies for the rest of us — which it does — we all win.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends or PPN.