Apr 25, 2023 - Economy

Netflix investing $2.5 billion in South Korean content

Two men jumping over a short wall, engaged in a physical struggle.

Screenshot from Netflix’s reality show “Physical: 100.”

Netflix is pushing the throttle on South Korean shows and films.

Why it matters: The streamer's new $2.5 billion multi-year commitment is one of the largest it's ever announced to one region.

  • And it comes at a time when it and other streaming companies are scrutinizing costs and being very deliberate about content spending.

Driving the news: Netflix says it's investing $2.5 billion in South Korean content over the next four years, co-CEO Ted Sarandos announced following a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol Monday night in Washington.

  • "We were able to make this decision because we have great confidence that the Korean creative industry will continue to tell great stories," Sarandos said in a statement.
  • Sarandos pointed to "Squid Game," "The Glory" and "Physical:100" as some of Netflix's biggest hits produced by South Korean creators.

Context: The company said in 2017 that it had spent more than $1.75 billion since 2012 on European shows, documentaries and films.

  • In 2019, Netflix said it would invest $400 million in Indian content over two years, and in 2021, said it would spend $300 million over three years on original Mexican productions.

Be smart: "Netflix has played a huge role in disseminating K-culture and K-content around the world," Regina Kim, an entertainment writer and K-content expert, told AFP.

  • Apple, Disney and Amazon have also been exploring deals that could step up their investments in South Korean content, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: U.S. audience interest and demand for non-U.S. content has risen since mid-2019 and Netflix has been a large catalyst for the globalization of content given its scale.

  • There are currently about 233 million global paid subscribers to Netflix as of the first quarter — with roughy two thirds from outside the U.S. and Canada.

What to watch: The number of new, original scripted series may start to shrink starting this year or next after hitting a record high in 2022, analysts warn.

  • A pivot toward licensing content could start to slow the number of original new shows, in part because it gives streamers more options.

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Axios Pro's Tim Baysinger contributed to this report.

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