Netflix Expands Into 130 New Countries

CEO Reed Hastings: 'You Are Witnessing the Birth of a Global TV Network'

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Reed Hastings, chairman, president and CEO of Netflix, delivers a keynote address at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
Reed Hastings, chairman, president and CEO of Netflix, delivers a keynote address at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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Netflix on Wednesday launched in an additional 130 countries, the company announced at the Consumer Electronics Show.

CEO Reed Hastings gave a keynote Wednesday morning to a full house at the Venetian, telling the audience that it is "witnessing the birth of a global TV network." New countries being brought into the fold include Russia, India, Vietnam, Nigeria, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia. Prior to today, Netflix was available in 60 countries.

The biggest country by population was missing, however. "While you have been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in nearly every country of the world but China," he said, adding that the company hopes to be there one day. The service is also not available in North Korea and Syria.

Getting so many countries on board was no easy task. "Content rights are sliced and diced between TV networks and local affiliates on deals that often last a decade or more. Countries have different attitudes to what content's appropriate. E-commerce payment systems are still developing around the world," said Mr. Hastings.

But at the same time, he said, "internet connectivity is getting better and better. Netflix-ready devices are already deployed throughout the world. And people love movies and TV shows. If given the opportunity, they are willing to pay a fair price rather than resort to piracy."

How many people in these new countries sign up for Netflix, of course, remains to be seen. There are many places in the world that have much slower internet connections with consumers whose devices may not necessarily be able to handle the data load of streaming video.

Netflix has been talking about its global expansion for some time. And streaming competition in the U.S. continues to grow, too, with established players like Hulu, Amazon and HBO, and newer offerings like CBS and Verizon's Go90.

Most of the 130 new countries will get the content in English, though the company is adding languages like Korean and Arabic to the 17 languages it already provides.

Ted Sarandos, the company's chief content officer, also spoke at the keynote, and combined with Mr. Hasting's talk, much of the company's address focused on Netflix's original content. It showed trailers for two forthcoming series, "The Crown," about Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s, and "The Get Down," which was created by Baz Luhrmann.

Netflix also brought Chelsea Handler on stage, along with Krysten Ritter, Will Arnett and Wagner Moura, all of whom star in Netflix originals. At one point, Ms. Handler asked Mr. Moura, who plays Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar in Narcos, about his weight gain for the role. "How does cocaine make you fat?" she joked.