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Netflix to Order African Original Series in 2019

Netflix plans to order original series from Africa next year, on top of the shows it’s already producing in Europe, Asia and Latin America, said Erik Barmack, the streaming giant’s vice president of international originals.

Netflix’s Europe team is “in the process of looking at opportunities in Africa. It’s definitely the case that we’ll commission some series there in…2019,” Barmack said at the Content London conference this week.

The move is in line with Netflix’s global ambitions and with Barmack’s own prediction that the balance of power in terms of the world’s most-watched shows will soon swing from U.S. to international fare. “There’s going to come a time when half of the top 10 of most-watched shows in a given year are going to come from outside of the U.S.,” Barmack said. “I don’t think that’s very actually far away. I think that’s going to come in years, not decades.”

He added that “shows with multinational casts will become the norm.”

Netflix is launching six new European shows in the next three weeks and at Content London unveiled a new period drama set during the French Revolution and a “Young Wallander” series. Barmack told the Financial Times that the company would increase Europe-originated fare by a third in 2019.

The streamer is also looking closely at the Arabic-speaking market and has set “Jinn” as its first Arabic-language show. “There’s 500 million people around the world who speak Arabic, and there’s a real opportunity to put different faces and a different type of programming [together] to get away from the traditional Ramadan shows, for example,” Barmack said at the London gathering.

More and more Netflix subscribers are watching non-English-language fare every month, he said. For talent, that means it will no longer be necessary to relocate to Hollywood to become a breakout star in a globalized TV world.

“The big message we want to communicate to talent is you don’t have to leave home to get big audiences, and you don’t have to choose Hollywood versus your own country,” Barmack told a room packed with content makers and sellers. “You can do both, and that, we believe, will be able to carry their audiences to their shows regardless of the language they are speaking or where the production comes from.”

He also had encouraging words for European producers. “There is so much interest in the storytelling here that if you have multiple choices from platforms, that’s a great place to be,” he said. “If you are a producer with an exciting project, this is a great moment in television history for you.”

Netflix’s demand for global rights has shaken up the production and distribution business, but is key to its strategy and success, Barmack said. He showed the audience Twitter and Instagram statistics illustrating the huge social media traction that the stars of Netflix’s series get worldwide.

“We’re able to release shows in fairly consistent windows around the world, and what that means is our members are able to participate in social conversations all at the same time, which is spurring interest in these shows,” he said. “We’ve seen a huge advantage to having global distribution, mostly because it gives the show the best chance of success – that everyone is talking about the show at the same time.”

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