Netflix is launching series in Spanish and Norwegian that may play well in America too

Posted at 9:31 AM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 14:47:30-05

Netflix is launching two new series from Europe as it seeks to capitalize on its growing international audience.

Speaking to CNN Business at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said the original series are part of a larger investment in content for its global audience of 137 million subscribers, most of whom are outside the United States.

The shows are from Spain and Norway and will enter production next year. In the Spanish series called “Alma,” a young woman loses her memory in a bus crash and has to unlock a mystery. The series from Norway, called “Ragnarok,” centers around Norse mythology and a god who is reincarnated as a 17-year old boy.

The series come on top of five new shows the company is launching in the next few weeks from Poland, Italy, Germany, France and Turkey.

Even Americans, who traditionally shun shows that aren’t in English, are drawn to these international series, Peters said, though Netflix doesn’t release ratings.

“You go survey Americans, they say resoundingly they don’t want to watch non English language content,” Peters said. “But when you present that non English language show with great English language dubs — which might be surprising considering the history we have of bad dubbing — tremendous numbers will actually watch that show.”

Peters said Netflix has invested heavily in dubbing and subtitling to make non-English shows entertaining for all audiences. In some cases the original actors will dub themselves in English.

And Netflix doesn’t market these shows as “foreign language” productions on its platform. Netflix users wouldn’t know just from browsing that “Dark,” for example, is a German show. And it gets 90% of its audience from outside Germany, Peters said.

“What I love about [our model] is, whether it’s an 80-year old grandma in Korea or a 13-year old boy in Italy, if they have the same content tastes in certain shows that they love, we get to ignore how old they are, what gender they are or what place they live and just connect with them with the content and the stories they’re going to love,” he added.

Though Netflix is often included in a group of companies known as the “FAANGs” — alongside Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google — it’s the only one that does not sell advertising, and it has no plan to change that.

“Ultimately we believe in satisfying our subscribers, that’s the core focus we have and we want to stay focused on that,” Peters said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated part of the plot of “Ragnarok,” which is centered on a Norse god.