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Netflix upbeat despite Asian doubts

News, 02 May 2016
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JAKARTA/SINGAPORE: Netflix, the US video-streaming service, entered Asian markets in earnest earlier this year, but its growth has been hampered by licensing restrictions and other problems which its CEO is confident can be overcome.

Speaking at last week's Asia-Pacific Pay-TV Operators Summit in Bali, Reed Hastings confirmed that Netflix would continue to invest in Indonesia even though it is currently blocked by Telkom Indonesia, partly because censors regard some of its content to be inappropriate for local viewers.

Hastings, who is also co-founder of the company, told delegates that Netflix has made a "great start" to its global expansion plans, having added 4m international subscribers since January, Variety reported.

However, he acknowledged that Netflix has some way to go to overcome certain issues, such as limited local content and language barriers, and that it could take several years before it becomes profitable in Asia.

"It will be many years before Asia becomes profitable for us," he said. "[But] you want to keep investing in content ahead of the revenue, and our investors know that."

He pointed to the upcoming joint Korean-American science fiction film "Okja" as a good example of Netflix producing local content – in this case, working in collaboration with South Korean director, Bong Joon-ho.

"We hope too to create fantastic Bollywood movies that the whole world will watch, not next year, but in two or three years," he said, in reference to India's powerful movie industry.

On top of needing to address Asian consumers' annoyance at the limited amount of local production – an issue he tried to tackle in Singapore while en route to the summit – Hastings accepted Netflix currently offers too many English-language shows.

"We are far below the number of languages we need to support. We have 21 languages. YouTube has 50," he said. "We will grow through partnerships with network infrastructure and in particular the content."

Data sourced from Variety, Today; additional content by Warc staff

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