Cover Tony Zameczkowski, VP for Business Development, Asia at Netflix

Tony Zameczkowski, Netflix's vice president for business development in Asia, tells us what the near future holds for streaming entertainment

Most people in Asia know Netflix as a streaming service, but it actually started in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail company, before streaming technology even existed. We started streaming shows in 2007, and in 2013 we took the radical first step of producing our own content like House of Cards, which proved a streaming service could make high-quality content. This in turn created the phenomenon of “binge-watching” because we released all of a season’s episodes at one go, unlike traditional studios, which released episodes once a week.

Since then, we’ve had many more firsts. Netflix’s vision was always to become a global service and we hit this milestone in 2016, when we launched in 130 countries. The pandemic and its rolling lockdowns have also significantly boosted subscriber numbers, with Netflix adding 37 million new subscribers in 2020 alone, for a total of over 200 million subscribers. Captive audiences no doubt also played a role in creating Netflix’s biggest show ever, the South Korean survival drama Squid Game. With 2.1 billion hours viewed worldwide, it was the most-watched title in eight Asian markets in the first week of streaming.

But I’d say we’re only at the beginning of the streaming revolution—and Netflix’s evolution. Here’s why.

Asia is on the rise

Broadly speaking, people in Asia prefer to watch on the go, unlike in the US and Europe, where users tend to watch on bigger screens. They also appreciate a wide variety of content, they love watching our global content as much as they love the shows made in Asia. Our first original Korean movie was Okja, which we followed with the Kingdom series. Both were successful, but came nowhere near the true global phenomenon that was Squid Game. Riding the K-wave, the other reason why Squid Game worked was because it featured universal themes that everyone could relate to.

This shows us that great stories can come from anywhere. We’re currently creating more content from India, Korea and Japan; and we have the unique scale to take this local content to a global stage.

Many countries in Asia are moving towards cashless economies, which has pushed us to rethink how we provide our members and potential members with other payment options. For example, we’ve partnered with Go Pay in Indonesia and introduced mobile wallets as a payment option, which has proved popular.

We will also continue to optimise our product, expanding our content delivery network, personalising the algorithm and finessing streaming quality.

 

What we’ll be watching next

You’ll see more high-profile, big-budget movies like Red Notice (starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot) as these remain popular. We’re also investing more on documentaries. 14 Peaks, an inspiring story about a Nepalese climber who climbed the world’s 14 highest peaks in seven months, was a top performer, while American Factory and Icarus won Academy Awards.

We are also producing more Japanese anime as it travels well across cultures. I think we’ve also managed to attract a lot of top talent because we give a lot of flexibility to creators. We don’t insist that a documentary has to be 52 minutes long or that a movie has to be a certain length. It’s up to our creators as to whether they want to tell their story in two hours or twenty.

Unique offerings

Unlike music services where you can pretty much find the same content, TV and video streaming services typically offer exclusive content. For example, you’d have to watch The Mandalorian on Disney+, and Stranger Things, The Crown, or Squid Game on Netflix—you won’t find it anywhere else and customers increasingly understand the value of paying for unique content.

Beyond TV and movies

There are significant synergies between our entertainment offering and gaming. We could build a great franchise on Netflix and extend it into a game, like what we did with Stranger Things: The Game. Or we could launch a gaming franchise and turn it into an amazing show. We’re in the process of bringing the necessary expertise in-house but we see this as a marathon rather than a sprint.

Tony Zameczkowski is vice president of business development, Asia Pacific at Netflix. Prior to this, he was vice president and managing director of venture-backed company Victorious; and director of YouTube Music in Asia Pacific.

This piece is part of a collaboration between Tatler Asia and Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO), a global leadership community of chief executives, which counts more than 30000 members from 142 countries among its members.

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