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Netflix to Launch in Japan in Fall of 2015

Netflix will launch a streaming-video subscription service in Japan this fall, the company announced Wednesday.

At launch, Netflix Japan will include a number of Japanese films and TV series, as well as Netflix originals including “Marco Polo” and the upcoming “Daredevil” from Marvel, the company said. Netflix tweeted the news Wednesday via its U.S. Twitter account.

“With its rich culture and celebrated creative traditions, Japan is a critical component of our plan to connect people around the world to stories they love,” Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement. “As we expand into Asia, we’re excited Netflix members increasingly will have access to some of their favorite movies and TV shows no matter where they are.”

Japan — which would mark Netflix’s first foray into Asia — is an obvious and attractive market for Netflix. The country had 36.7 million broadband households as of 2013, behind only China (188.9 million) and the U.S. (91.3 million), according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Netflix told investors last month that it expects to aggressively expand internationally — aiming to be in some 200 countries by 2017 (up from about 50 today). Late in Q1, the company is slated to roll out service in Australia and New Zealand.

“We already offer Netflix in about 50 countries and have learned a great deal about the content people prefer, the marketing they respond to and how to best organize ourselves for steady improvement,” Hastings and CFO David Wells said in their fourth-quarter 2014 letter to shareholders.

Netflix beat expectations in Q4 on international subscriber adds with 2.43 million (vs. previous guidance of 2.15 million). As of the end of 2014, Netflix had 39.11 million U.S. streaming subs and 18.28 million internationally.

As for when Netflix might enter China — the world’s most-populous market — Netflix has tempered expectations.

“For China, we are still exploring options — all of them modest,” Hastings and Wells wrote in their Q4 letter. “We’ll learn a great deal if we can successfully operate a small service in China centered on our original and other globally licensed content.” Hastings, on Netflix’s earnings call with investors last month, added that in China, Netflix needs to get a license to offer service, and “It’s not 100% clear we’re going to be able to do that.”

Earlier this week, Netflix said it was raising $1.5 billion in additional debt to fund content acquisitions and other corporate expenses.

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