Thursday, April 18, 2024

Netflix to invest $2.5 billion in Korea content after Yoon meeting

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South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol landed in the U.S. on Monday to start a six-day state visit. 

That same day, Yoon met with the head of a company that’s perhaps done the most of any U.S. firm, at least in recent years, to support Korea’s global reputation as a cultural hub: the streaming company Netflix

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos led a meeting with Yoon on Monday at Blair House, the U.S. guest house for visiting dignitaries. The meeting between Yoon and Sarandos was the first official engagement by South Korea’s president in the U.S., according to The Korea Herald, an English-language newspaper in Korea. 

After the meeting, Netflix announced that it would invest $2.5 billion in Korean content over the next four years, double the amount the streaming company had already invested in the country since 2016. 

“We were able to make this decision because we have great confidence that the Korean creative industry will continue to tell great stories,” Sarandos said in a statement. Korean shows are “now at the heart of the global cultural zeitgeist,” he said

Yoon called the “unprecedented” investment “a significant opportunity for all Korean content businesses and creators, as well as for Netflix.”

Korea has been a key source of popular content for Netflix since the surprising global success of the show Squid Game in 2021. The streaming service reported in January that 60% of its users watched at least one Korean-made show last year, and announced it was planning 34 new and returning titles from the country this year. 

Competing streaming platforms, like Disney+, Apple TV, and Asia-based service ViuTV are also snapping up Korean and Korean-inspired content for the region. 

The broader Asia-Pacific region is a consistent source of growth for Netflix, even as subscriber growth flags elsewhere. The company added 1.46 million paying subscribers from the region last quarter, out of a total of 1.75 million. 

What else is Yoon discussing in the U.S?

South Korea’s president is in the U.S. for a six-day trip that includes a summit and state dinner with U.S. President Joe Biden. The South Korean president is joined by a 122-person business delegation, including Samsung chairman Lee Jae-yong and SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won. 

Yoon is also expected to travel to Boston for events at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. 

Yoon is expected to discuss security arrangements with the Biden administration given North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons. 

Yoon’s visit to the U.S. comes amid a number of disagreements between Seoul and Washington D.C. Korean officials are unhappy with some of the conditions associated with new subsidies for chips and electric vehicles, which often require either U.S.-based production or constraints on China-based investment. 

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