BERLIN – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Wednesday that the company had invested more than $1.75 billion in European productions, including licensed programming, original content and co-productions, as the U.S.-based streaming giant increasingly turns to the international side of its business to drive growth.
Netflix currently has more than 90 original productions in various stages of development across the continent, Hastings told the audience at a company-sponsored event in Berlin. Its services are available in 13 languages, and will soon add Romanian and Greek.
He said European content was watched by more than 93 million Netflix subscribers globally, and that the overall subscriber base would soon exceed 100 million. “We are making art successful around the world,” Hastings declared, adding that the Internet had the power “to reinvent television” by giving viewers greater freedom in when, where and how they watch content and by “giving producers access to global audiences.”
Widening the company’s reach in Europe, he announced a new deal with regional cable provider Unitymedia, which will lead to Netflix being integrated into the group’s set-top boxes.
The company presented its European programming lineup at its Netflix – See What’s Next event in the German capital, including original local-language series like “Dark,” a German mystery drama and the company’s first German show; “Suburra,” an Italian organized-crime thriller; and “Las chicas del cable” (“Cable Girls”), a Spanish romantic drama set in the 1920s.
Netflix’s upcoming series also include “Troy: Fall of a City,” “Black Earth Rising” and “The Spy,” which it is co-producing in association with BBC One, BBC Two and Canal Plus, respectively. “Troy,” a retelling of the Trojan War, is written by David Farr, who also penned hit drama “The Night Manager.”
Netflix has also greenlit new seasons of U.K. series “Lovesick,” “Narcos,” “Sense8,” “Black Mirror” and “Better Call Saul.”
Local productions have been part of the company’s international strategy from the start, and continue to shape its global rollout. Hastings noted that Netflix’s first original series was “Lilyhammer,” a co-production with Norwegian public broadcaster NRK1 about a New York gangster exiled to Norway.
“We realized we could create stories and bring them to the whole world….Our next series was a remake of the BBC show ‘House of Cards,’ and that has gone on to bring honor and revenue to the original show’s creators.”
With its more than $1.75 billion investment, Hastings said Netflix was one of most active supporters of European content. Pointing to its Oscar-winning documentary “White Helmets,” about rescue workers in Syria, Hastings said it was an important film that is now “available everywhere in the world.”
Likewise, a title such as Spanish drama “Siete Años” (“Seven Years”) would typically have only shown in Spain, but Netflix has taken it around the world.
“Great storytelling knows no geographical bounds,” Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told the gathering in Berlin. “After four years of original programming and filming in 18 countries, we know compelling stories can come from anywhere and, no matter their origin, can resonate with audiences around the world.”
Sarandos added that of the viewers who watched Netflix’s European shows, more than half were outside of Europe, “which is why we are confident our upcoming slate of international shows will be enjoyed by viewers in their home countries and beyond.”
Netflix’s hit shows also include the Golden Globe-winning “The Crown” and “Marseille,” whose second season begins production in April. Mirroring current French politics, a young female politician of a far-right French party will join the cast of “Marseille.”
Netflix also presented exclusive clips of Bong Joon Ho’s “Okja,” about a little girl searching for a special friend, as well as teasers of “War Machine,” an absurdist drama starring Brad Pitt as a U.S. general on a stint in Afghanistan, David Ayer’s fantasy film “Bright” with Will Smith, and female wrestling comedy “GLOW.”
Laurent Bouzereau, director of the documentary series “Five Came Back,” which examines the connection between World War II and Hollywood, described Netflix’s overall attitude toward his project as “empowering.” He added that it wasn’t necessarily about how successful the film could do internationally but, rather, “this is a really good story.”
Written by Mark Harris and based on his bestselling book, the series focuses on the careers of John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens and features interviews with Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan. Meryl Streep narrates the series, which launches March 31.