Netflix Steps Up Production on Spanish-Language Original Series

Netflix is in production on two Spanish-language skeins in a bid to boost membership in Latin America: “Narcos,” a Colombia-set drug crime thriller co-helmed by Brazilian director Jose Padilha, and soccer-set satire “Club de Cuervos,” from the producers of Mexican blockbuster “Nosotros los Nobles.”

While in Brazil, Netflix has been producing shows with local comics including Danilo Gentili (“Politicamente Incorreto”), Marco Zenni (“So Ria!”) and Fabio Lins (“Atira Sarro”).

“We are investing in content that would be attractive to (Latin America) but would also appeal to viewers across the world,” says Netflix communications chief Jonathan Friedland, who adds that original Netflix shows are also in production in France, the U.K. and Canada. Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott, estimated in a report this year that Netflix will spend almost $5 billion on original productions in 2016.

The streaming giant recently said it has signed more than 5 million subscribers in Latin America since its September 2011 launch. It’s quickly risen to become the dominant subscription video-on-demand service in the market, with the second-largest regional over-the-top service, Claro Video, chalking up an estimated 1 million subs.

Given that Latin America claims 66.1 million broadband households, there is massive room for growth. In early February, Netflix announced that it had begun offering the service to Cuba despite the island nation’s extremely limited access to broadband and international credit cards.

“The administration has already lifted controls allowing media companies to operate,” Friedland points out.

Netflix has clearly shaken the status quo in the region, prompting cable and satellite operators to launch their own OTTs, says Buenos Aires-based Dataxis research head Carlos Blanco. Dataxis identified 75 VOD OTT streaming platforms in seven key territories of the region as of October last year. However, 19 other OTT platforms have also folded. Many local MSOs didn’t offer OTT until Netflix came into the market, says Blanco.

“Prices of content went through the roof when Netflix came into the market,” says Antonio Barreto, CEO of Digital Latin America, who thinks it’s no surprise that some OTTs have failed. “It’s a high-stakes game,” he says, requiring considerable expense on content and marketing.

The good news is that it may put a dent in online piracy. “Piracy partly grew here because of the paucity of VOD. Easier accessibility to a greater number of quality VOD from OTTs can only help the market and is much appreciated,” says Blanco.

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