TV

Netflix Decides to Learn Spanish


After expanding to 41 countries and producing almost two dozen shows of its own, Netflix (NFLX) is releasing its first original non-English-language series. The 13-episode comedy will be set in the world of professional fútbol, with dialogue in Spanish.

While there’s clearly a possibility for crossover appeal—many Netflix subscribers regularly stream subtitled fare—the company’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, has described the soccer satire as a play for “a market as important to us as Mexico and Latin America.” High-quality original programs are the current gold standard in Netflix’s rivalry with everyone from Amazon.com (AMZN) to HBO (TWX), and this new series appears to be a bet that creating shows in multiple languages can further broaden the appeal of a Netflix subscription.

The show, currently untitled, will make its debut next year from the production team behind Nosotros los Nobles, a box office hit in Mexico that showed the foibles of a wealthy family forced to cope with sudden poverty (not unlike another Netflix-produced series, Arrested Development). The movie’s director, Gil Alazraki, and producer, Leonardo Zimbron, formed Alazraki Entertainment this year and were keen to keep the film’s production crew intact for another project. The show will be shot in Mexico, with a cast drawn from across Latin America.

The Spanish-language comedy might be just the start of Netflix’s non-English original-programming push. The company has its sights set next on France and Germany, as analysts expect the streaming service to be launched in both countries later this year. When Netflix moves into a new market, typically 1 in 5 titles in its streaming library will be locally flavored, international–meaning non-Hollywood–content, according to company spokesman Joris Evers. The process of selecting a streaming lineup for a new country sounds quite similar to how Netflix decides to green-light its original series: an assessment of the shows and movies that are popular in the market, along with analysis of entertainment content most frequently pirated by locals.

Netflix’s first original series, Lilyhammer, was arguably the company’s first non-English series, produced in partnership with a Norwegian broadcaster. The first season of that drama—starring Steven Van Zandt as a New York mobster turned government witness hiding in Norway—features predominantly Norwegian dialogue, with English subtitles. The second season includes more English. But don’t expect any all-Norwegian original shows across Netflix’s global portfolio just yet.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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