Netflix turns to South Korea for new subscribers

Did 'Squid Game' give Netflix the subscriber-boost it needs?

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Netflix turns to South Korea for new subscribers


The Future. Netflix has had a slowdown in subscriber growth, so it hopes investment in South Korea will help it reach new audiences throughout Asia. Considering the outsized success of Korean content around the world, it sounds like a winning strategy.  Netflix may even try to copy this playbook in other countries — greenlighting content that local industries don’t typically support but have an appeal that translates across languages.

Squid Game effect
Could South Korea give Netflix the subscriber-boost it needs?

  • After Squid Game became its most popular show, global audiences started watching even more Korean shows on the service.
  • That immediately catapulted shows like My Name and Hellbound to the Top 10 of non-English language shows.
  • In the past six months, South Korea has had more titles in the Top 10 than any other country other than the U.S.

So, how is Netflix capitalizing on this success?

  • It set its South Korean content head, Minyoung Kim, to lead all programming in South Asia.
  • Now that South Korea is the company’s third-largest market in Asia (5 million subscribers), it will surely up the $500 million it spent on content last year in the country.
  • It has leased 172,000 square feet of studio space to produce more content.

East Hollywood
Netflix’s success in South Korea is proof that its local-language strategy is succeeding. When the streamer debuted in the country in 2016, the local film industry shunned it. But Kim, who previously worked at Korean entertainment giant CJ, made two genius moves — she greenlit projects that were rejected by Korean TV studios (for being too controversial or difficult to pull off) and struck a licensing deal with Studio Dragon, which secured rights to hit Korean titles.

Wall Street now expects endless subscriber growth from streamers, believing Netflix should add 20 million subscribers a year (despite already having 213 million worldwide). So, the company knows that getting a toehold in Asia is the best way to see the count go up (as of Q3 2021, it’s flatlined in the U.S. at 74 million). The popularity of Korean content throughout the continent — and now the globe — could be the gateway to the entire region.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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