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For the global television industry, there was the time before Netflix, and the time after Netflix. But what has made the company truly disruptive is how quickly it has established a physical presence globally: From Toronto to Mumbai, London to Seoul, local shooting facilities have seen their business boom when Reed Hastings comes to town.
This year, Netflix announced new long-term leases in Toronto with Cinespace Studios and Pinewood Toronto Studios, adding close to 250,000 square feet of studio and office space to the company’s Canadian footprint, which already includes a long-term lease at Martini Film Studios in British Columbia. Netflix has committed to spending at least $379 million in Canada over a five-year period. In July, Shepperton Studios inked a 10-year lease that will see Netflix take over 165,000 square feet of soundstages located just outside London in a deal that could run Netflix up to $6 million a year. Over in Mexico, Netflix has announced plans to locally produce 50 TV series and film projects, many of them at Tlanewood, the studio run by local outfit Argos.
The explosion in Netflix’s global content also has seen the company amass a sizable rental property portfolio that includes more than 30 office spaces worldwide. Since it began spreading its long-haul wings, the company has — much like the Silicon Valley tech giants with which it’s so regularly compared — been quietly leasing some of the world’s most desirable commercial real estate, both in terms of size and cost: more than $1 million a year for 12,000 square feet in London, $100,000 a month for two floors of space in Tokyo’s fashion quarter, enough space along the canals in Amsterdam for more than 300 employees and an estimated $7 million a year for a sprawling 150,000-square-foot space in Mumbai. As staff numbers continue to rise, more offices are on the horizon.
In short, whether it’s on a soundstage in Mexico or in a boardroom in Mumbai, Netflix is exporting its “disrupter” corporate ethos on a global scale. “This is completely unprecedented [and] a complete sea change, with impacts across the board on everyone in the production business, from studios and soundstages, postproduction to local talents and local broadcasters,” says Guy Bisson, research director at Ampere Analysis in London. “It’s been a huge boom, and there are no signs of it slowing down. In fact, it’s getting bigger and bigger every day.”
SILICON VALLEY (Offices)
Los Gatos, Calif., has served as Netflix’s headquarters — and Reed Hastings’ base when he’s not in L.A. — since the late 1990s. Over the years, the company has expanded its presence and now occupies 600,000 square feet, including two newly built buildings that feature collaborative workspaces for product, engineering and data scientists. Conference rooms are named after movies (Mad Max, Taxi Driver), and a film theme plays out on graphics on the glass walls.
LOS ANGELES (Offices)
Netflix leases multiple properties around L.A. and recently closed deals on two new spaces in Hollywood, but the crown jewel is the 300,000-square-foot HQ at Hollywood’s Sunset Bronson Studios, where it occupies all 14 floors of the ICON tower. There, guests are greeted by an immersive lobby with an 80-by-12-foot screen displaying images from the streamer’s original shows and films. Netflix’s data-driven culture also extends to the snack offerings, with each floor’s selection amended based on popularity. Employees also enjoy a stocked cereal bar and prepackaged meals by Wolfgang Puck catering.
MEXICO CITY (Studios)
While Netflix shoots all over Mexico and doesn’t have any one facility it favors with a long-term deal, Tlanewood, aka the Estudios Gabriel Garcia Marquez studios in northern Mexico City, has been a key hub for Netflix’s south-of-the-border production. Independent producer Argos operates the sprawling campus, with more than 30,000 square feet of production space, including six soundstages (two more are set to open in 2020). In total, Netflix plans to produce 50 television and film projects in Mexico — its largest international production slate in terms of sheer volume.
NEW YORK (Studios)
Plans for Netflix’s Brooklyn production hub came in April, two months after streaming competitor Amazon was pressured to pull out of its proposed Queens headquarters. The streamer has leased a 165,500-square-foot warehouse in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, where it will build six soundstages. On the corporate side, the company will be expanding, with about 100,000 square feet of new offices in Manhattan’s Flatiron District to house development, production and marketing executives.
NEW MEXICO (Studios)
In October, Netflix made its first purchase of a production studio complex, paying $30 million to acquire and improve ABQ Studios in Albuquerque — a very good deal considering the facilities, which include eight soundstages, production offices and a backlot, cost $91 million to build. Additionally, under the Local Economic Development Act, New Mexico said it would provide up to $10 million in government funding, while the city of Albuquerque committed up to $4.5 million. The streamer has said it will bring upward of $1 billion in production money to the facility and provide up to 1,000 jobs a year.
This year Netflix unveiled plans to take on close to 250,000 square feet of studio and office space in Toronto as part of its agreement to invest a minimum of $380 million over a five-year period in Canada’s entertainment industry. Netflix will take over long-term leases encompassing 164,000 square feet — four soundstages, office space and support space — at Cinespace Studios. The facilities, owned by PortsToronto, became operational in June, with Netflix understood to have an initial 18-month lease with an option for a further 18 months. Netflix also has four soundstages leased at Pinewood Toronto Studios, amounting to an additional 84,580 square feet. Both Toronto facilities will host shoots for upcoming Netflix series and films, including the horror anthology series Guillermo del Toro Presents Ten After Midnight and the film Let It Snow.
Netflix opened its first European production hub in July 2018 in Ciudad de la Tele (TV City) in Tres Cantors, taking over three 12,900-square-foot soundstages (with an option to expand as the studio grows) and making the facility the center for the company’s booming slate of Spanish-language original content. Netflix has a multiyear lease with Grupo Secuoya, which operates the site. The streamer says it employed more than 13,000 cast, crew and extras on more than 20 Netflix original productions in Spain in 2018 — series such as Cable Girls and Elite and feature films like Isabel Coixet’s Elisa & Marcela — with much more to come.
After quietly closing its fledgling Parisian office in 2015, Netflix is set to reboot its presence by the year’s end. The company has leased a 27,000-square-foot space in the recently renovated Square Edouard VII (neighbors include Airbnb, Facebook, Google and Twitter). Set among classic Haussmann buildings on a quiet cul-de-sac just steps from the grand Opera Garnier and the Intercontinental Hotel, rents go for upward of $900 a square foot (Netflix’s new space could ring up around $2 million a year). The offices also will overlook two movie theaters (which won’t play Netflix films, of course), though Netflix is expected to build its own screening rooms.
Netflix’s 90 or so Indian staff currently work from a temporary office in Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai’s upscale business district (also home to Google, JP Morgan and the U.S. consulate). It’s a stone’s throw from Bandra, awash in trendy restaurants, bars and even the residence of Shah Rukh Khan (who just happens to have a couple of upcoming co-productions with Netflix). However, unconfirmed media reports claim that the company already has signed a nine-year lease on an enormous 150,000-square-foot space over two floors in a nearby commercial tower that would set it back around $7 million a year.
Having established a physical Australia/New Zealand presence only in May, Netflix’s 10-strong local team is currently based in a WeWork space in the heart of Sydney’s central business district (where similar small, private offices start at $1,000 per month) while it searches for something more permanent. What remains to be seen is whether it will take residence at or near the Fox Studios Australia, the largest studio facility in the Southern Hemisphere and now owned by rival Disney.
Last year, Netflix joined the flock of major global entities — including Facebook — to sign leases in the shimmering new Marina One development, taking a 40,000-square-foot space for its Asia-Pacific headquarters. The hallmark feature here is the location, with open offices overlooking the sea and offering the perfect viewpoint for the annual fireworks show on National Day.
Eschewing the long-standing trend of setting up shop in the creative hipster hub of East London, in late 2017 Netflix signed a lease on 12,000 square feet of space in a swanky new mixed-use complex in Fitzrovia, just off the shopping hub of Oxford Circus. Comparable rents would suggest the company is forking over around $1.17 million a year for the spot. More than 120 employees occupy one floor, and as others join, it’s already preparing to spill out onto a second.
Netflix’s announcement that it will be taking a long-term lease on the Shepperton Film Studios made it clear the company plans to invest a significant amount of the $1 billion to $1.3 billion it has committed to European productions in the U.K. Financial details weren’t disclosed, but going rates suggest the Shepperton lease could run Netflix up to $6 million a year.
When international for Netflix meant little more than Europe, this was the central outpost of most non-U.S. operations. Set right beside a canal on the edge of the historic De Pijp neighborhood, the EMEA headquarters employs more than 300 staff and takes over several floors in an office that boasts health-focused food — often themed — and free alcohol Thursday and Friday afternoons. In keeping with the local vibe, Netflix bikes can be loaned out to staff.
Located in the Jongno downtown district, Netflix’s Korean HQ — which only opened its doors in June — takes over floors 20 and 21 in the brand-new Centro Polis tower (a typical commercial space costs more than $400,000 per year) and offers views of Insa-dong, known for traditional tea houses and antique stores.
Netflix occupies two upper floors of a sleek mid-rise commercial tower in Tokyo’s Aoyama fashion quarter. The company began in 2015 with one level of about 7,100 square feet but took over a second in 2018. Comparable properties suggest Netflix is paying at least $100,000 per month. Spacious by Japanese standards, the office’s most striking feature is a large open-plan kitchen and dining area that boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and huge sliding doors opening out onto a balcony that overlooks the Aoyama’s most iconic landmarks, such as Herzog and de Meuron’s award-winning Prada building. Staff is treated to catered lunches daily — during a Hollywood Reporter visit, the chef was serving a healthy, kale-heavy version of taco rice, an Okinawan dish inspired by Mexican American food — as well as an expensively stocked drinks bar, including some high-end Japanese teas.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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