The world’s largest paid streaming service, Netflix Inc., is set to step up its fight against AT&T Inc. and Sony Corp. for original content that appeals to Asian viewers by launching 40 new anime titles this year and almost double its number of Japanese-style anime releases.
According to Bloomberg, Netflix announced this move on Saturday during a virtual animation expo from Japan — “where half of Netflix’s 5 million subscribing households watch an average of five hours of the shows each month.”
Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing streaming markets and this move by Netflix is a part of a push for original content to appeal to audiences in that region as its home market of North America reaches a saturation point. Following the success of the anime movie “Demon Slayer,” which was last year’s fourth highest-grossing film all over the world and Japan’s best-selling title ever, entertainment companies are increasingly vying for a slice of the $23 billion industry.
“We want to be able to pride ourselves as being the top entertainment destination with good quality content,” Taiki Sakurai, Netflix’s chief anime producer, said in an interview. “The growth of our business is directly connected to the growth of our anime.”
Growing its base of customers in Asia is also crucial if Netflix is to sustain its recent growth amid Disney+ and Amazon Prime, its rivals in the region, spending more on producing content.
“One of Netflix’s biggest advantages over its competitors is generating local, original content based on its extensive user data,” said Pooh Chuang, an analyst at Taiwan-based President Capital Management Corp. “Doubling down on original anime will help this localization campaign and strengthen its users’ attachment to Netflix.”
There has been a growth of about 50% a year in global viewing of anime shows, Sakurai said, with half of Netflix’s 200 million global subscribers watching at least one anime show in recent months. Four years ago, when Sakurai joined the company. he was the only employee working on anime; the team has now expanded to 12 members, a testament to the firm’s dedication to the format, he said.
Some of Netflix’s most-popular titles now include anime series. Among the platform’s 10 most-watched series in about 80 countries is “Blood of Zeus,” launched last year. “Among the series, Netflix will release this year are “Yasuke,” about a legendary African samurai in feudal Japan, and “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness,” based on a Japanese horror video-game franchise created by Capcom Co.”
According to a report last year by the Association of Japanese Animations, the worldwide market for anime, including box-office takings, TV fees, and merchandise, almost doubled over the decade to 2019, reaching $23 billion. By 2025, that’s estimated to grow to more than $36 billion, India-based research firm Million Insights said in a report last year, that this growth will be driven by increasing penetration of streaming platforms and the rising popularity of Japanese smartphone games.