With the majority of its subscribers outside the United States, Netflix’s ongoing strategy offering global content to local markets requires extensive dubbing and/or subtitle use.
New data from Ampere Analysis suggests Netflix opts to prioritize dubbed content in Japan, France and Germany, while focusing on subtitle use in smaller markets. In most non-English speaking territories, Netflix’s catalog comprises 90% foreign-language content, making localization, either through audio dubbing or subtitles, extremely important.
Despite the SVOD pioneer’s pledge to make at least 30% of content in markets native, locally-produced titles still represent the minority of its content portfolio in all its markets, according to Ampere. This means Netflix has to rely on subtitling and dubbing for audiences in its many territories.
Indeed, the streamer largely uses subtitles in most markets, with dubbing representing less than 30% of Netflix’s foreign content.
“For Netflix, the level of localization of foreign language titles largely depends on the markets,” analyst Tingting Li said in a statement.
In large markets like Japan, where local content is extremely important, over 40% of titles are dubbed and nearly every show has subtitles. Netflix’s dubbing is currently focused on the four largest EU markets — France, Germany, Italy, Spain — with 60% of foreign content in these territories is dubbed.
As the languages spoken in these markets cover multiple territories, investments in expensive dubbing processes can often be spread across other markets too — including Latin America, Africa & Canada, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland, among others.
These levels seen in the largest European markets are still typically lower than local SVOD competitors such as Maxdome (now Joyn) in Germany and Mediaset Infinity in Italy — both featuring almost 100% dubbed content.
Netflix’s catalog is typically larger than it competitors and its subtitling coverage is often superior, according to Ampere.
“In English-speaking countries, Netflix’s strategy is to localize foreign titles via English subtitles, while in other key markets, such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, the streaming giant makes certain that most foreign titles are either subtitled or dubbed — catering to local content preferences,” Li said. “For other markets, such as Russia and Turkey, which represent a smaller portion of Netflix’s subscriber base, and thus harder to justify extensive localization investments, between 13% — 28% of content is localized — but we expect this to change as market penetration grows.”
For some markets, dubbing may be unnecessary — in Scandinavia, Netflix has low levels of dubbing coverage. But this is echoed by local Nordic players such as Viaplay, which has equally low levels of dubbing — and even lower levels of subtitling, partly because audiences in the region are used to watching English-language programming.
For English-speaking markets, local language content comprises 70% of titles. The remaining 30% are mostly subtitled, as in these markets, consumers are less accustomed to watching non-local content, and many of those consumers who watch foreign content prefer subtitles. The size of opportunity for audio dubbed content is thus minimal in these markets.
For French, German, Italian and Spanish-speaking markets, Ampere says around 90% of titles are foreign language, and dubbing is much more common. This is partly due to the scale of the markets, and partly due to the ubiquity of the languages themselves.
Ampere says that outside of Japan, India, South Korea and the Nordics, any markets that rely on other languages feature far lower levels of subtitling or audio dubbing, with many titles not featuring any localization at all.