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‘This Is Just the Beginning,’ Netflix Exec Says of Non-English Programming

Netflix is just “scratching the surface” of what it plans to do in non-English-language programming, the company’s head of international originals said Thursday, adding that, for the streaming giant, “Hollywood is not the be-all and end-all of storytelling.”

The streamer’s success with series such as Germany’s “Dark” and Denmark’s “The Rain” means it will go deeper into foreign-language drama and look at other genres, Kelly Luegenbiehl told TV industry professionals at a conference in London. “It opens up a world of unscripted doc series, sketch comedy, stand-up, kids’ [content], live-action kids’ [content],” Luegenbiehl said. “When we think about non-English-language content, this is just the beginning.”

Following on from “Black Mirror” interactive installment “Bandersnatch,” Luegenbiehl said Netflix is “starting to look at what the first interactive series in non-English language would be.”

Speaking at the Drama Summit at Content London, the Netflix exec reported that 50% of subscribers watched a foreign-language show – up from 30% a couple of years ago.

When asked why so many shows skew young, she said Netflix does not collect age information from its subscribers or target specific age groups, but the company can see what works on its platform and program accordingly.

A third original – an unspecified female-led drama – will be coming out of South Africa, and a pair of originals from Nigeria, Luegenbiehl said, adding that she wanted a show out of Kenya. There is also an original coming out of Egypt, the first from the country.

Quizzed on shows she liked from the international market, she cited Sky and HBO series “Chernobyl,” noting that if it had been a Netflix show, it would have been made in Russian.

Answering a producer concern that, as Netflix sets up studios, it will start to become a closed shop and make its own originals in-house, Luegenbiehl said that “we don’t have to do that” and that the company prefers to work with the best producers rather than take production in-house.

“‘The Witcher’ is an exception,” she added. “We always ask who is the partner and could we do it better, and the answer is almost always no.”

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