Netflix today signaled a significant new investment in France with the opening of its new Paris office and a content roadmap that will see the streaming service nearly double the number of French language originals it has produced so far. Since 2014, Netflix has produced 24 productions in French, including six films and nine television series. But the new plan is to add 20 new productions, and to grow its new corporate presence in Paris consisting of 40 employees to one nearly three times the size.
Netflix is doing similar expansions across the globe, including elsewhere in Europe and in South America. The company has plans to open offices in Germany and Italy, and last year it opened a large office in Mexico City. It also has offices in England, the Netherlands, and Spain.
The goal is to diversify its lineup of shows and movies to attract more international customers, especially as growth in its US subscriber base has hit its upper limit and competition from domestic giants like Disney and HBO heats up. Last July, the number of Netflix customers in the US declined For the first time ever. That’s made Netflix’s focus on international expansion more crucial than ever before.
Netflix has had successful run with foreign language shows, including Spanish language crime thriller hits like Narcos and Money Heist and German language sci-fi show Dark. It’s also struck gold with some of its foreign language films, including Oscar nominated Roma from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón. And Netflix is investing heavily in Japanese language content, including securing the worldwide streaming rights to the legendary Hideaki Anno anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, as another segment of the streaming wars now includes an escalating bidding war for sought-after animated films and shows both new and old.
Yet while expanding its presence in a country like France is arguably good for business, there’s also a legal reason at play. The European Parliament finalized in October 2018 new regulation regarding Netflix and other streaming services’ presence in the EU that mandates that at least 30 percent of all content carried on the platform be originally produced in the region. Amazon, Netflix, and other companies have until September 2020 to hit that quota. So it’s likely Netflix’s new investments in Germany, Italy, and France will help it do so.
There’s also Netflix’s somewhat contentious relationship with the French cinema community, after the company’s high-profile showdown with the Cannes Film Festival over contest eligibility requirements. Netflix was banned back in 2018 from competing for the festival’s most prestigious awards due to its limited theatrical runs, which ran afoul of France’s new rules around local releases and, more broadly, the country’s cultural commitment to cinema as an institution.
Netflix then pulled out of the festival officially, and it did not submit any films for the 2019 Cannes. So a new, dedicated presence in Paris and a substantial increase in its investment in local productions may help smooth over that once-soured relationship.