Sep 9, 2019

Axios World

By Dave Lawler
Dave Lawler

Welcome back to Axios World. It's my last turn at the helm before Dave returns from vacation. Today's edition is 1,423 words — or a 5.5 minute read.

1 big thing: Netflix is an exporter of global culture

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Netflix continues to expand its presence around the globe, it is increasingly investing in the production and distribution of localized, foreign-language content designed to woo international audiences.

Why it matters: Hollywood has long been seen as the global cultural force, shipping both American values and the English language worldwide. Now, Netflix's household ubiquity and deep pockets are pushing back on that stranglehold, granting users easy access to foreign content that they may have never considered in the past.

Driving the news: The newest season of "Terrace House," a Japanese reality show about 6 housemates who try to find love while going about their daily lives, will be released internationally tomorrow.

  • It has spawned a rabid Anglophone fanbase — some of whom have taken to creating English subtitles for its pre-Netflix 98-episode first season.
  • Worth a read: The Ringer's Brian Phillips wrote a glorious examination of the show back in March, proclaiming it "one of the great TV shows of our sad, young millennium."

The big picture: The streaming service isn't just concentrated on one part of the globe, making significant investments across Europe and Asia to bolster its content libraries.

  • The 2017 time travel series "Dark" was Netflix's first German-language original production, garnering comparisons to fan favorite "Stranger Things." It also made a significant investment in "Money Heist," focused on a robbery at Spain's Royal Mint.
  • Back in June, it announced a significant expansion in its South Korean production facilities, making a play in one of Asia's hottest markets. It also nabbed the global streaming rights for the Chinese big-budget thriller "The Wandering Earth" — currently 2019's 8th-highest grossing film worldwide, per Box Office Mojo.

The streaming giant also staked its Oscar hopes last year on Alfonso Cuarón's "Roma," a black-and-white film based on the director's childhood in Mexico City.

  • While it ultimately lost Best Picture to "Green Book," Netflix may have dropped as much as $60 million on its Oscar campaign, per Vulture, proving that the platform is willing to bet the house on foreign content it believes in.

The other side: In the U.S., Netflix's English-language content still vastly outperforms foreign-language content with users, per Investor's Business Daily.

  • A Netflix survey last year found that its U.S. users dislike foreign-language content, according to CNET, but chief product officer Greg Peters said the service "ignored" that "super depressing" result, finding Americans were more amenable to dubbed shows over subtitles.

The bottom line: With the European Union already considering local content quotas for streaming platforms, expect this trend to continue to ramp up as governments realize they can incentivize streaming services to rake in investments.

2. Trump's Afghanistan fallout

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

If you read only one story today, you should make it the New York Times' wild tick-tock on how President Trump tried to pull together secret peace talks with the Taliban and Afghanistan's president at Camp David.

  • Why it matters: It "brought to a head a bristling conflict dividing his foreign policy team for months, pitting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, in a battle for the competing instincts of a president who relishes tough talk but promised to wind down America’s endless wars."
  • "What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment."

The consequences of that decision are laid bare in a companion piece from the Times: "[T]here was a consensus in Kabul and Washington that the sudden derailment of what had seemed like a carefully orchestrated effort for a deal could lead to a surge of violence before [Afghanistan's] Sept. 28 election."

  • "Now, the Taliban have more of an incentive to disrupt the election, and make clear that after an 18-year war they remain a potent political and military player."

The bottom line: Don't expect a ton of movement on this anytime soon. When asked about the status of the peace talks today, Trump said, "They’re dead as far as I’m concerned."

3. Parliament prorogued

Boris Johnson. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The U.K. Parliament is set to be prorogued in a few hours, suspending its debate until Oct. 14.

The intrigue: Prime Minister Boris Johnson originally charted this course to thwart his opposition, which is fighting to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, but it may have hurt his own bargaining position in the end.

  • The opposition succeeded in passing legislation that requires Johnson to request a Brexit extension by Oct. 19 if he fails to reach a deal with the European Union. At this newsletter send time, it seemed all but certain that Johnson will fail in his second bid to get a snap election on the books before that time.
  • That would mean he'll either have to pull together a new deal over the next few weeks — a task largely viewed as impossible — or risk reneging on his core promise of a "do or die" Brexit by Halloween.
  • It sets up a wild showdown in October that could see Johnson refusing to abide by the opposition's law — whatever the consequences — or choosing to resign rather than break his promise.

Another surprise: Commons Speaker John Bercow announced that he'd be standing down from his position at an early election or Oct.31, whichever comes first.

  • The BBC has a great political obituary for Bercow: "He has been that rare thing — a historically significant Speaker of the Commons."

1 fun thing: Parliament's prorogation ceremony is more British than you can possibly imagine, and it even includes a traditional hat-doffing.

  • "As each Act is announced, the Clerk of the Parliament turns to face MPs, declaring 'La Reyne le veult' — Norman French for 'The Queen wishes it.'"
4. Netanyahu sets his sights on Iran

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he claimed was a covert nuclear weapons development site near the city of Abadeh, Iran, that was demolished in July after the Iranians realized it was compromised, writes Axios contributor Barak Ravid.

  • Why it matters: Netanyahu made his statement the same day the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors convened in Vienna to discuss the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's attempts to block access and information from UN atomic inspectors.

The big picture: Netanyahu’s statement also comes 8 days before the Israeli elections, allowing him to again highlight the threat posed by Iran and emphasize a message that has been core to his re-election campaign.

  • His political opponents criticized his statement and blamed him for politicizing intelligence and national security.
  • Yair Lapid, one of the leaders of Blue and White, the main opposition party, said the Iranian nuclear issue "can’t be used as an election campaign stunt."
  • Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak called Netanyahu’s statement "an election spin."
5. Russia rundown

A screen displaying the preliminary results of the elections held on Russia's Single Voting Day. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

1. "Pro-Kremlin candidates have suffered losses in local elections in Moscow as Vladimir Putin’s biggest critic hailed the success of his campaign to encourage strategic voting," reports The Guardian.

  • "Discontent with the ruling party has been driven by a variety of factors including a five-year increase in the national pension age, growing economic hardship, and relentless allegations of corruption."

2. "In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN."

  • "A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy."
6. What I'm reading

Barack Obama and Samantha Power in 2015. Photo

The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins takes a look at former UN Ambassador Samantha Power's new memoir, "The Education of an Idealist," unleashing a withering critique of what he views as the Obama administration's foreign policy failures in the process.

"In the opening pages, she warns that the title might suggest that she had 'lofty dreams about how one person could make a difference, only to be "educated" by the brutish forces' she encountered. She adds, 'This is not the story that follows.'
But the book does hint at the death of a dream. Power, who provided Obama with foreign-policy advice when he was a senator and a Presidential candidate, joined the White House in 2009 as a champion of humanitarian intervention in an Administration dedicated to ending the conflicts it had inherited and refraining from entering into others.
One of the questions facing the new Presidency was whether someone like Power, an insistent voice for the primacy of morality over politics, could be effective — or whether the idea of humanitarian intervention, on which she had built a career, had essentially exhausted itself."

P.S. ... If you're in D.C., Axios' Mike Allen will sit down with Power for a breakfast conversation on Thursday at 8am. RSVP here.

7. Stories we're watching

A man jumps 30 feet into a pool at Bavaria's Buchenegger waterfalls. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

  1. Saudi Arabia's oil minister is out in a major shake-up
  2. Dorian's impact on Bahamas like "nuclear bombs were dropped"
  3. Hong Kong government warns U.S. as students join latest protest
  4. China outpacing world on digital currencies
  5. U.S. Cyber Command appears to troll North Korea with malware release
  6. Typhoon Faxai lashes Tokyo
  7. India's space agency detects missing lunar lander on moon's surface


"This is an omen, if you will. ... Fire weather has never been as severe this early in spring."
— Andrew Sturgess, the fire prediction chief for Queensland, Australia, after a bushfire destroyed a historic conservation lodge, per the New York Times
Dave Lawler