From a child in Australia, to a mother in Japan, to a grandmother in America, Netflix focuses on a wide range of content with one important factor in common.
“I want the storytelling be addictive,” said VP of Content Elizabeth Bradley. “I want it to be so addictive you can’t stop talking about it and can’t stop watching it.”
And the streaming service has discovered the shows that resonate most with viewers across the globe are the ones with a distinct regional perspective.
“The more locally specific, the more universal and relatable,” said VP of International Originals Erik Barmack.
At C21’s Drama Summit West conference in Los Angeles, the two spoke about the growth of the streaming giant, which currently produces about 90 series outside the U.S., and said the service plans to triple that number. Netflix operates in 192 countries, and has been steadily expanding its slate of original co-productions.
For example, Netflix produced historical drama Anne with an E, based on Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables, with Canada’s CBC. Bradley showed a clip from the series, demonstrating the focus on strong characters and voices.
“We’re enraptured with how that storytelling comes across,” she said.
Netflix has also partnered with CBC on Margaret Atwood miniseries Alias Grace, due out this fall; with BBC America for sci-fi sleuth series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which is in production for season two; and Spike in the U.S. for Stephen King-based horror series The Mist to premiere June 22.
Other upcoming co-productions include Troy, set around the events of the Trojan War; psychological thriller Requiem; contemporary thriller Collateral and labyrinthine thriller Black Earth Rising, all with BBC in the U.K., along with teen drama series The End of the F***ing World with E4.
Those at Netflix often get asked what they look for in a series.
“Literally, we need everything,” Bradley said. “What we want is the absolute best of everything.”
The service is open to any and all genres and business models from any and all countries. As long as strong storytelling is at the center of the series.
Netflix really began to realize the power of locally-specific international stories with the success of its first original Brazilian production 3% in 2016. Set in a dystopian future, the series was widely popular in Brazil, and quickly spread beyond the country and to the U.S.
“That was really eye-opening to us,” Barmack said.
Mexican political drama Ingobernable is another series that transcended its target audience and gained traction in the U.S.
“The more authentic to a local group or story, the more it’s going to travel,” Barmack said.
Netflix also has high hopes for The Witcher, based on Polish fantasy novels that have also been widely successful as a video game franchise. After revealing the series, the announcement on Twitter trended number one in Poland, and number five globally.
The streamer is also conscious about working with local talent in the country where they’re producing, like with Spanish period drama Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls), about four women at a national telephone company in 1920s Madrid. It stars Ana Fernández, Nadia de Santiago, Blanca Suárez and Maggie Civantos, and incorporates a lot of Spanish fashion.
“We really want to have talent behind these shows that are out in the news and on social networks,” Barmack said.
But they could not stress enough the importance of strong characters, relatable voices and authentic plots that hook audiences and keep them watching.
“Linear shows are trying to get you on a certain night at a certain time,” Bradley said. “We’re trying to get you anytime, anywhere.”