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Netflix Explains Its Success Formula For Promoting Anime, Asian Titles

posted on by Kim Morrissy
In 2020, over 120 million households chose to watch at least one anime on Netflix

What explains the recent surge in popularity of Asian media—including anime—on the Netflix streaming service? Kaata Sakamoto, Vice-President of Content at Netflix Japan, and Product Manager Michael Smith shared the details around Netflix's promotional strategy at TIFFCOM's "Netflix: From Asia to the World - Breaking out new titles -" seminar.

According to Sakamoto, the three essential parts of the strategy are Content, Choosing, and Conversation.

The "Content" part involves investing in production teams to create quality programming. Since 2015, Netflix has invested in more than 50 titles from Japan, highlighting The Naked Director as a positive example. It has also established production facilities in more than 100 countries and territories outside of Japan. The key is investing widely in stories from around the world, all with broadly appealing themes.

“Stories with a universal theme will transcend borders to inspire people anywhere," he said. "This is true not only for Japanese and Korean titles. This is why Netflix puts importance on each country's authentic storytelling.”

The "Conversation" component involves encouraging engagement with Netflix titles on social media. The idea is for people to associate Netflix with their word-of-mouth recommendations so that they invest more of their time into the service. Netflix is creating its first e-Commerce site and games for its service in order to promote further engagement with brand.

Finally, "Choosing" refers to the service's intricate recommendation algorithm. Smith went into more detail about this: Firstly, titles are recommended in a similar genre or category to what the user has previously watched. Videos and thumbnail styles are tailored to the user's click history. A single title can also be recommended under multiple categories, depending on what categories the user favors. For example, the live-action Alice in Borderland TV show has been recommended under “Japanese TV Shows," “TV Shows based on Manga," “Suspenseful TV Shows," etc.

According to Smith, there are two distinct advantages that come with selling a title to Netflix: The first is that titles have the potential to receive continued exposure well after launch, thanks to the algorithm. For example, Alice in Borderland received a spike in views after the worldwide success of Squid Game, so the algorithm began to recommend it to Squid Game viewers. Because of this, the show landed back in the top 10 in more than 50 countries, more than nine months after its initial launch.

The second advantage to Netflix's algorithm is that it can bypass the need for title-specific marketing. While the service connects titles with similar genres and styles, it also makes a point of recommending titles broadly to audiences that haven't been exposed to that category before, which raises the possibility of new discoveries and sudden booms. Smith highlighted the South Korean drama Crash Landing On You as a notable example of a show that launched in Japan without a marketing campaign, but which still became extremely popular—so popular, in fact, that more people watched it than the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in 2016.

Finally, Smith briefly addressed anime, describing it as "a huge success story on Netflix." In 2020, over 120 million households chose to watch at least one anime on Netflix. Two notable titles were A Whisker Away, which was in the top 10 in over 30 countries, and Record of Ragnarok, which reached the top 10 in over 70 countries. According to Smith, "many Netflix users are discovering anime for the first time through the service."

Source: TIFFCOM Online Seminar

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