On September 2nd Netflix entered the Asian market by launching in Japan. Following its successful Pacific-region launches in Australia and New Zealand in March, Netflix now hopes to reach the 36 million broadband households in Japan. Its objectives are twofold: to provide content to Japanese consumers who are eager to have access to Netflix original content and shows, and to expose the platforms’ 57 million worldwide subscribers to Japanese films and TV shows that are now available through the service. Japan has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world and a low percentage of paid TV subscriptions, an ideal combination for a media platform like Netflix. To ease concerns in Japan about paying for content, which is a relatively new phenomenon there, and the abundance of international programming, Netflix will offer local original programming at its launch, the first time it has done so.
To further ease its transition into the Japanese market, Netflix has appointed its first general manger outside the United States. Netflix is also partnering with Japanese telecom company Softbank, which will allow Softbank customers to include their Netflix subscription on their monthly phone bill, and Softbank will pre-install the Netflix app on Japanese phones starting in October. Japanese tech giants Panasonic and Sony have agreed to add Netflix buttons on TV remotes as well.
Netflix will see another US company in Japan later this year as the popular online news and entertainment website BuzzFeed recently announced its own plans to build a Japan-centric platform. With over 45% of its content being viewed by consumers outside the United States, including on sites it launched for Australia and India, BuzzFeed has partnered with Yahoo! Japan, Japan’s top search engine, in an effort to reach nearly 90% of Japan’s internet users. This partnership marks BuzzFeed’s “first overseas expansion via a joint venture.” It is hoped that this local partnership will help BuzzFeed navigate the linguistic and cultural differences that have proven difficult for other US tech companies to surmount in Japan. A BuzzFeed spokesperson told Asia Matters for America that BuzzFeed will hire local Japanese writers and editorial staff to ensure that “the content is localized and relevant for Japanese audiences.”
Both Netflix and BuzzFeed proved to be disruptive platforms in their respective sectors when they first launched in the US. They are hoping that their respective new media models also take hold in Japan as they look toward further expansion across Asia.
Sarah Wang is the Event Coordinator and a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.