Netflix, Amazon Executives Target More Foreign-Language Content

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Kelly Luegenbiehl

Kelly Luegenbiehl, vp international originals at Netflix, also discussed new streaming rivals, binge-viewing and Baby Yoda.

Netflix doesn't see a need to change its approach to content amid the streaming wars but envisions more upside for non-English-language, locally sourced programming, one of the global streamer's international top executives said at a London TV conference on Thursday.

In terms of non-English content, Netflix feels it is just scratching the surface. "This is really just the beginning," Kelly Luegenbiehl, vp international originals at Netflix, told C21's Content London, highlighting that 50 percent of Netflix subscribers have now watched a foreign-language show, up from around 30 percent in 2017.

She highlighted the global success of German drama Dark and Denmark's The Rain, among others, and mentioned that after the first African projects that have been commissioned in South Africa and Nigeria, she would like to find a Kenyan original.

She also argued that any worries about a drama bubble were not warranted, arguing that if you asked people in various countries if they felt there was too much great local-language content, they would say no. And she shared that Netflix was looking for a first non-English-language interactive project along the lines of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Her comments about the upside potential for non-English programming were later echoed by Amazon executives. Georgia Brown, director, European Amazon originals, said that she expects original local-language programming to expand for the company. "The more local shows are the more local they are," added Aparna Purohit, head of Indian Amazon originals, highlighting a point that Luegenbiehl had made during her appearance.

Luegenbiehl was also asked about other topics, including competition, Netflix's approach to binge-viewing, possible advertising and audience data.

Questioned about whether the global streamer's content mission was changing with the increased competition, she said: "I think for us what we are doing is working," so it will look to do more of that. "If people stop watching our shows," then a shift will be needed, she said.

She even shared that she has been using Disney+, saying she has been bingeing The Mandalorian. "I couldn't get enough of that Baby Yoda," she said.

Asked if Quibi or some other new or upcoming service was a Netflix killer, she said: "I think for us, the real danger is going to be if we get complacent and stop taking risks."

Will Netflix start releasing more shows weekly like other new streamers or stick to its binge model? "Our audience has the most control of control and ... choice" with the existing binge model, Luegenbiehl said. So there are "no plans" to change that.

Asked about new advertising VOD services, she again said Netflix will stick to its model, while adding that hopefully AVOD services will mean more good content.

Asked about the much-debated use of algorithms, the Netflix executive said the company uses a combination of art and science to pick content. "Art is by far the most important aspect," she added.

She also signaled that there were misconceptions about how much the company shares audience data with creators. "We're trying to be as transparent as we can with our creators," she said.

When Luegenbiehl was asked about a possible spinoff of The Crown on Prince Andrew, who has been in the headlines, she replied, "I don't think I want to touch that one right now."