Netflix to bring its video-streaming service to Japan this fall


Staff Writer

Netflix Inc. will enter the Japanese market this fall as it seeks out a bigger share of the global video-streaming business.

“With its rich culture and celebrated creative traditions, Japan is a critical component of our plan to connect people around the world to stories they love,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement released Wednesday in California.

The firm said it will offer “a strong selection” of Japanese TV programs and movies along with its original content, such as the series “Marco Polo” and Academy Award-nominated documentary “Virunga.”

It said it will soon launch a Tokyo office to collaborate closely with Japanese electronics firms and TV and movie producers.

Netflix, the world’s largest provider of online video-subscription services, has more than 57 million subscribers in about 50 countries. It plans to expand to 200 countries by 2016.

Its entry is expected to heat up competition in the Japanese market, where video-on-demand providers Hulu, Amazon, Apple, Google and Niconico are already operating.

In addition, three major cellphone carriers — NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp. — run their own video-streaming services. Because the material they offer tends to be similar, players like Docomo are also creating original content to differentiate themselves.

Hulu spokeswoman Makiko Ehara said her company likewise launched a division to create its own content at the end of last year.

Offering content that “people can enjoy only on Hulu” is critical, she said, adding that Hulu isn’t ready yet to disclose any details.

Hulu entered the Japanese market in 2011 and its Japanese unit was bought by Nippon Television Network Corp. last year. It offers access to more than 13,000 TV programs and movies for ¥933 per month.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting Co. last year indicates that people in Japan are not interested in paid video streaming. Only 4 percent of the 2,150 respondents said they subscribe to such a service.

The company said that Japanese people are used to watching TV for free and the culture of paying for online content has yet to take hold.