Netflix may produce content in Singapore

Netflix's Mr Sarandos says producing content in Singapore for the world "can be quite big".
Netflix's Mr Sarandos says producing content in Singapore for the world "can be quite big".

Netflix could produce content in Singapore or by Singaporeans, if its chief content officer Ted Sarandos is true to his word that there is no market too small for its ambitions. "If we're making a show only for Singapore, then it might be considered small. But if we're making something in Singapore for the world, it can be quite big," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

Ramping up its library of original content, including non-American offerings, is one of the streaming giant's main global expansion strategies.

Mr Sarandos, 51, points to the example of how Netflix has managed to capture Mexican audiences and beyond through its localised content. Referring to its Mexican comedy-drama series Club de Cuervos (2015), the company's first local language original production, he said: "About 80 per cent of the people watching that are in Mexico, but 20 per cent of the audience are people watching outside of Mexico. Just having that additional audience reach enables us to produce on a very big scale."

This year alone, Netflix is spending US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) on producing original content, compared to Discovery's US$2 billion, according to reports.

Next month, it will debut comedy series Love Dynamite, starring stand-up comic Maria Bamford, and in September, Marvel's latest series Luke Cage. On the feature film front, principal photography has just started on Okja, a new monster movie from acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon Ho.

Analysts say Netflix's greatest challenge now, following its massive launch in 130 countries in January, is having to grow its subscriber base in the local regions.

Mr Sarandos is optimistic: " In Japan, for example, we can know what they like to watch from their movie-going habits, but we won't know what it's like when they have a lot of choice on a platform like Netflix.

"Western content is not dominant in Japan, but I don't think that's something genetic about Japanese audiences - it's mostly a function of what they had the opportunity to watch.

"But if you tell great stories and have great production values, I think people everywhere around the world will want to see that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Netflix may produce content in S'pore'. Subscribe