Business25 November 2019
On 25 November, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings delivered the following speech at the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in Busan, Korea.
It’s a great honor to be here in Korea this morning celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ASEAN-ROK partnership: a partnership created to promote the exchange of culture across this region.
All of us in this room today share a deep love of art, culture, and storytelling. We remember the stories our parents told us as children. Tales that helped us to learn about our culture, and start to make sense of life. And how today - even though we’re older…and allegedly wiser - stories still help us to build empathy and develop a shared understanding of the world.
We’ve also seen how technology - something that’s often considered cold and clinical - enables art and culture to spread beyond the people or countries who created it. From the printing press and the motion picture to radio, TV and most recently the Internet.
In fact, it’s this melding of art and technology that got Netflix started over 20 years ago. We began life as a DVD by mail company - serving a US audience with mostly American films. In 2007, as broadband speeds continued to increase, we switched to streaming - enabling consumers to watch shows on their own schedule.
People in Korea and Southeast Asia took to streaming quicker than we ever imagined because it was convenient. They loved being in control of what and when they watched. Today that control is as important as ever.
For example, we make the entire TV series available at launch so people can watch as little or as much as they want at once with no ads to interrupt them. We also provide controls for parents so that they can decide what their children watch.
Since that initial reinvention - from DVDs to the Internet - we’ve had to reinvent ourselves twice over. In 2013, we started to make our own shows like House of Cards. And then in 2016, we went from being in just 60 countries to serving audiences in 190 countries across the entire world.
As a result of these changes, Netflix has developed very differently from most other TV companies or studios. US entertainment companies, for example, have traditionally viewed “international” as an export market for American content.
But at Netflix, we’ve seen how great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere.
Take the Korean drama Kingdom - I hope you have all seen it! This series was “Made in Korea” - by Korean creators, starring Korean talent. And it’s been watched by audiences all around the world: from Asia to Europe and the Americas.
Okja, one of our first-ever movies was made by Director Bong. The Night Comes for Us from Indonesia. And the movie Hai Fung has been chosen as Vietnam’s official submission for the 2020 Oscars.
Since launching here 3 years ago, we’ve invested in over 180 Netflix originals from the region - almost all of which have been commissioned by local content executives, who know the culture and speak the language.
In total, our shows have been filmed in 19 cities in Korea and 12 more across South East Asia, including Bangkok, Penang, Bali, And we’ve created work for over 8,000 producers, cast and crew.
A recent survey of 56,000 ASEAN young people found that over half of them feel the need to upgrade their skills. And this is an area where Netflix is contributing. For example, we’re holding workshops in Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia,Indonesia, and Thailand that help develop local writing and filming skills. These workshops are run with partners such as the Korea Animation Producers Association, Thailand’s National Federation of Motion Pictures, and Malaysia’s Digital Economy Corporation.
As we grow, it’s important to work flexibly with local creators. In some cases, that will mean producing our own shows like Love Alarm from Korea, The Stranded - our first series from Thailand, or Ghost Bride from Malaysia. In others, licensing films or series from partners including local broadcasters like KBS, MBC, SBS in Korea; Mediacorp in Singapore; ABS-CBN in the Philippines; Media Prima in Malaysia, and GMM Grammy in Thailand. Or content providers like CJ ENM in Korea. We also do co-productions, where we help fund the cost of a show and then share in its distribution.
Our goal with every show we commission - whether it’s a Korean, Thai or American - is to ensure that the creator has the freedom to tell their story they want. Artistic expression is key to authenticity, and it is this authenticity that audiences love.
Just this morning, we announced a major partnership with JTBC in Korea. Netflix will show a slate of JTBC’s stories to audiences all around the world. And that’s where our technology comes in.
Because once we have an authentic, original story, we need to get it in front of people wherever they live, and in whatever language they speak.
We work with partners across the region, for example pay-TV providers like CJ Hello and LGU+, Internet service providers like AIS and device manufacturers such as Samsung and LG - to ensure that Netflix works whether it is on smart TVs or smartphones. And that it works to the best quality possible, whether it’s a fiber connection or a slower mobile signal.
To ensure that shows which are “Made in Korea” … or “Thailand” ... or “Malaysia” … can be “Watched by the World”, we need to speak everyone’s language.
Subtitles and dubbing are critical to making that connection. To date we sub and dub into 30 languages, including Korean, Thai, Bahasa...and two months ago we launched Vietnamese. Subbing and dubbing on Netflix is generally good but we want to be great. And there’s more we can do.
This region is one of the greatest centers of art and entertainment in the world. Your creative and engineering talent is second to none... You are pioneering new kinds of stories and new technologies, which we are enjoying and benefitting from.
And Korea’s K-wave has led the way for this region. Across the entertainment and music industries, as well as fashion and cooking, we see K-fans everywhere - from the US to Brazil and France. Viewers and listeners, fashionistas and cooks can now discover the depth and diversity of Korean culture.
At Netflix, we’re excited to be part of this K-Wave and the broader Asian-wave everyone here is working to build; ensuring more cultures are reflected on screen; building greater empathy between countries; and increasing our understanding of the world through storytelling.