Netflix Launches in 130 More Countries, Reed Hastings Says

Reed Hastings Netflix - H 2015
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Reed Hastings Netflix - H 2015

The exec's keynote kicks off the first official day of CES in Las Vegas.

Netflix launched its streaming television service in 130 more countries simultaneously on Wednesday as part of its rapid expansion to go global by the end of the year.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings took the stage during the International CES electronics show to announce during a keynote speech that Netflix was switched on in countries like India, Russia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia.  

"You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network," Hastings told the crowd

Netflix is now in more than 190 countries, with the notable exception of China. That country poses a particular challenge since the streaming service must get permission from the government to operate there. Hastings elaborated during a press conference that launching in China is a priority for Netflix. "We're continuing to work on that and we're very patient," he said.

Investors applauded the big global move, sending Netflix shares soaring 9 percent to close at $117.68 to close in New York. 

Hastings' keynote kicked off four days of CES, which runs Jan. 6 to 9. The annual electronics showcase will also include speeches from YouTube's Robert Kyncl and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. 

Netflix has been investing heavily in content over the last three years and that spending is expected to increase to $5 billion in 2016 as it produces new seasons of programs such as Orange is the New Black and Daredevil, adds new shows including psychological thriller Gypsy and expands on its distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation. 

Content chief Ted Sarandos joined Hastings on stage to tout the company's original content, which will result in about 600 hours of new shows, movies and documentaries this year.

Some analysts have blamed the rush of new content on streaming services as a reason box office receipts haven't grown by a wider margin in recent years. Sarandos noted that Netflix "is not anti theater. We're pro movies." 

"International windowing of movies is a way for the studios to skim the markets," he said. "It's managed dissatisfaction." He noted that Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous 6 has become the most-watched movie in Netflix history during its first 30 days. "We saw in the data that Adam Sandler can travel," Sarandos said. "He travels really well in the first window too."

Sarandos also used the CES stage to bring out some of the company's creative collaborators to talk about what it's like to work with the company. They included Chelsea Handler, Bojack Horseman voice actor Will Arnett, Narcos star Wagner Moura and Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter. And he teased two upcoming shows, Royal family biopic series The Crown and Baz Luhrmann's hip-hop drama The Get Down

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company, which began as a DVD by mail business before expanding into streaming, has placed an emphasis on global expansion. In 2015 the company rolled out services in Japan, Australia and Spain, among others. Netflix had previously announced plans for launches in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.   

This grown made Netflix an investor darling last year, when its stock soared 144% to become the top performer in the broad Standard & Poor's index. It also led entertainment and media stocks during a period of panic about declines in cable subscribers has wreaked havoc on traditional entertainment stocks. 

But the company has started to face some scrutiny from investors over its subscriber growth, especially as nears completion of its global rollout. The stock dropped Monday following a downgrade from Robert W. Baird, which lowered its price target to $115 on weak U.S. subscriber growth and the potential for that trend to continue when the company announces fourth quarter 2015 earnings on Jan. 19.