Netflix steps up original Asian content to hook international viewers

Netflix scored a hit in India with Mumbai-based crime thriller Sacred Games. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Netflix steps up original Asian content to hook international viewers

  • ‘More than half of Asian content hours viewed on Netflix this year are viewed outside the region’
  • The new titles build on Netflix’s recent forays into Asian productions

SINGAPORE: Netflix unveiled a plan on Thursday to make 17 more original productions in Asia including Thai and Chinese language shows, as the US firm seeks to attract new international users through more local content.
The plan, which includes nine productions in India and five anime series, should help ease concern that the video streaming pioneer is running out of space to expand in developed markets.
Netflix reported bumper quarterly earnings last month as it exceeded forecasts in both the US and international markets, with the bulk of new subscribers coming from outside the United States where the company has been investing aggressively.
“More than half of Asian content hours viewed on Netflix this year are viewed outside the region,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said when unveiling the plan at the firm’s content showcase event in Singapore.
“So, we have confidence that our upcoming slate of Asian productions will find fans in their home countries and abroad.”
Netflix has earmarked $8 billion for content this year, and had spent $6.9 billion as at the end of its third quarter.
On Thursday, the company said the new productions will include anime series such as Trese, based on a Philippine graphic novel of the same name, and Pacific Rim, an adventure story about two siblings searching for their missing parents.
Netflix will make two Thai language originals including Shimmers, a drama series about five teenagers at an isolated school in northern Thailand. It will also broadcast Triad Princess, a Chinese-language original from Taiwan in which the protagonist seeks independence in defiance of her Triad father.
The new titles build on Netflix’s recent forays into Asian productions, including India’s Sacred Games, Japanese anime series DEVILMAN crybaby, and variety comedy BUSTED! in South Korea.
In Asia, led by India, Netflix has won fans among a young, tech-savvy middle class. Chief Executive Reed Hastings has said India could deliver the service’s next 100 million subscribers.
The company will announce details of nine projects from the country on Friday.
Netflix scored a hit in India with Mumbai-based crime thriller Sacred Games. However, the Bollywood studio that produced the show disbanded last month after sexual harassment allegations against one of its partners, Vikas Bahl, and the show’s lead writer, Varun Grover. Both men have denied the allegations.
Netflix later backed the series for a second season.
The firm had 137 million subscribers to its movie and TV streaming service worldwide as of September-end. It began releasing original English-language programming nearly six years ago and has since expanded into other languages.


Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

Updated 16 January 2019
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Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

  • The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties

TEHRAN: A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television’s English-language service has been arrested after flying into the US, the broadcaster reported Wednesday. US law enforcement agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans, comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties, previously used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.
Iran’s state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.
“We will not spare any legal action” to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran’s state IRIB broadcaster.
Press TV said Hashemi, who has worked at the state broadcaster service for 25 years, had been arrested after arriving at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. Jebeli alleged that her son, Reza Hashemi, had been arrested as well.
Jeff Lea, a spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport, didn’t immediately return phone or email messages from The Associated Press. Rebecca Wu, St. Louis’ FBI spokeswoman, directed questions to the press office at FBI headquarters.
A call to FBI headquarters rang unanswered early Wednesday morning. The bureau also did not immediately respond to a written request for comment. Several local jails around Washington that house federal inmates also said they did not have her in custody.
Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding US Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi’s arrest indicates the “apartheid and racist policy” of the Trump administration.
“We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,” Ghasemi said.
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for Internet freedom and has done work for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.