JAPAN: Netflix and Shrug

LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – As of September 2, the citizens of Japan have been able to “Netflix and chill” to their heart’s content. Be that as it may, it looks as though they aren’t really into binge-watching uber popular, original series such as “House of Cards” or “Orange in the New Black.”

Even with Japan exclusives like “Underwear” and “Terrace House,” interest in shows that are a hit with Americans and Europeans is tepid at best. A large reason for this is because Netflix can’t seem to grasp the fact that they must cater to their audience – one that is much different from those in the Western hemisphere.

Rob Cain of Forbes Magazine recently stated that, “Netflix has repeatedly shown that it doesn’t understand Asia, and Japan in particular is a notoriously difficult territory for American media companies to crack. The major Hollywood studios have mostly stayed out of Japan due to the cultural, regulatory and economic barriers that make it prohibitively expensive and difficult for foreign media companies to compete there.”

That being said, this interest gap is most likely caused by two things: a disappointing catalog and the original language of the content. Many of the Japanese rights-holders of popular programs are still holding onto their cable and DVD platforms because they provide them with more money.

As for the language barrier, let’s face it: subtitles can be distracting, and many colloquial sayings in English can’t necessarily be translated and keep the same meaning. For example, Crazy Eyes’ famous “I threw my pie for you” line in “Orange is the New Black” might not elicit the same laughs in Japan as it did in America.

While off to a slow start, all hope is not lost. Netflix just needs time to feel out the market and understand that one size does not fit all.


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