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Netflix's algorithm is forcing international entertainment into western TV diets, putting westerners off

Netflix's algorithm is forcing international entertainment into western TV diets, putting westerners off

Netflix gambled that its users would see content produced in countries around the world, in languages other than their own in 2014, because it believed it would be available in other languages than the one they would like. Squid Game, the South Korean dystopian drama that has piqued the imagination of viewers worldwide, is now paying off that gamble.

Squid Game will definitely be our biggest non-English language show in the world, for sure, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in an interview at the Code Conference last week. [Theres] a very good chance itll be our biggest show ever, said McMillan.

The Squid Game phenomenon confirms a fundamental shift in western viewing habits, driven largely by the broad, location-agnostic Netflix offering. Netflixs early mix of original and licensed TV and film, viewable anywhere, on any device, mobile or stationary, was the company's Hollywood-disrupting secret sauce, which gave it a head start in the fight for streaming supremacy. And a big part of Netflixs early success was its decision to convert what was once art-house foreign cinema and TV fare into mainstream, binge-watchable content.

Netflixs algorithm determines what viewers see and hear.

Netflix is fairly clear on how its algorithms, user search patterns, and knowledge of viewer habits work to help its subscribers find TV series and films they may like. Whats less apparent to some users is why the service so often incorporates foreign-language suggestions into its content curation streams. The inclusion of foreign language content as an additional viewing option has been so frustrating for some, there are entire Reddit threads and Quora discussions devoted to preventing the service from offering its non-English film and TV titles.

However, this forced-feeding of international series and films is neither malicious nor a kumbaya-like move to unify the world. Its more likely to be attributed to Netflix hefty investments in foreign content.

Hollywood has a slew of amazing storytellers, said Lee. But that is a terrible disconnect [between the US and the rest of the world], and in that disconnect is an opportunity. Greg Peters, Netflixs chief product officer, and now also its chief operating officer for the last year, said in a presentation at the annual Web Summit in Lisbon. It s the chance that great stories can be told from anywhere, he added.

Netflix's massive investment in content includes international series, as well as a number of other Netflix initiatives.

In a letter to shareholders earlier this year, the business stated that it expects to spend roughly $17 billion on content worldwide in 2021. While theres no per-series/per-film breakdown of the spending, a substantial portion of it will likely be dedicated to the company's ever-growing international productions in non-English speaking countries. The effectiveness of this approach has already been demonstrated by the success of Lupin (France) and Money Heist (Spain), which are among Netflixs top 10 most watched series this year (before the release of Squid Game).

Now that Squid Game is dominating US pop culture, adding foreign language series and film titles to the suggestion streams of English-speaking consumers is likely to be an option.

Lupin, the French language series' debut in January, was our largest non-English debut and the first non English series to reach number one in the US, according to Sarandos. The popularity of Squid Game is growing exponentially.

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