Global streaming giant, Netflix is in the process of unveiling a huge expansion of its slate of Japanese film and TV content. These are aimed at cementing and strengthening its position in the critical Japanese market and also showcasing live action and anime programming that is expected to cross borders.
After the recent success of Korean series “Squid Game,” many eyes have turned to Asia for further high concept non-English-language shows. Netflix itself recently said that the “Squid Game” effect had propelled futuristic Japanese series “Alice in Borderland” back up the rankings in several territories nearly a year after its original release.
Over the course of its two-day Netflix Japan Festival 2021, the company is expected to disclose details of 50 new shows. Day one presentations focused on animation, while the second will home in on live action. These are in addition to the 90 Japanese shows that have previously been available.
The new line-up includes work by renowned filmmakers Mori Yoshihiro (“We Couldn’t Become Adults”), Gekidan Hitori (“Asakusa Kid”), and tie-ups with leading animated film studios like Studio Colorido (“A Whisker Away,” “Drifting Home”)
“Our next big bet is expanding feature films. Japan is home to extraordinary talent who shape the cinematic history of the world. With creators as diverse as the ones we work with today, we’re excited to play a role in the history of great local talent finding their voices and delivering them to audiences everywhere,” said Sakamoto Kaata, Netflix VP of content in Japan.
Outside research has recently suggested that Japan now represents Netflix’s largest consumer base in the Asia-Pacific region, having possibly overtaken English-language early adoption territory Australia. But it is rival Amazon Prime Video that is the premium SVOD market leader in Japan.
In a research document, Media Partners Asia recently said that Amazon has more than 15 million monthly active users in Japan and accounts for 26% share of households’ streaming time. Netflix is estimated to have more than six million subscribers in Japan, and to lie fourth in terms of minutes consumed, behind Amazon Prime, TVer and Abema TV, but ahead of the locally-owned Hulu Japan.
In recent months, Netflix has announced other moves that deepen its roots in Japan. In March, it announced that it had signed a long-term lease on studio space in Tokyo to be used for local productions. In September, it set up a creators’ lounge, complete with artist in residence, intended to embed it further in animation. And last month it unveiled content pacts with both Tokyo Broadcasting System and Nippon TV, owner of Hulu Japan.
Netflix has not disclosed its Japanese financial commitment to date, nor publicly set itself an investment target for the future, unlike South Korea, where at the beginning of the year it committed itself to spending close to $500 million in 2021.
It says it is seeing growing international interest in Japanese content. Japanese titles like “The Seven Deadly Sins,” “Record of Ragnarok,” and “Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning” each reached the platform’s top ten in over 50 countries. It said too that over 120 million households have watched at least one anime title in the past year, a figure more than double the number of households in 2018.