Netflix’s Big Bet on Foreign Content and International Viewers Could Shake Up the Global Media Landscape


As a child growing up in Italy, I remember watching the American TV series “Happy DaysWhich recounted the 1950s Midwestern adventures of Fonz, Richie Cunningham and other local teens.

‘Happy Days’ aired on ABC from 1974 to 1984.
IMDB

The show, combined with other American entertainment widely available in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, shaped my perception of the United States long before I set foot in the country. Today I am calling the United States home and have developed my own understanding of its intricacies. I can see “Happy Days” as a nostalgic rebirth of an ideal and conflict-free small American town.

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“Happy Days” was a product of Hollywood, which is arguably still the epicenter of the global entertainment industry. News so recent that the streaming service Netflix opens Italian office and begin to massively fund original local content with the intention of distributing it globally on its platform – following a strategy already launched in other European countries – struck me.

It could be a game-changer for global entertainment. And it might even change the way the world views, well, the world.

Learn by watching

I explored the global media landscape from the privileged Los Angeles vantage point for 15 years.

Television and movies are a way that people, as we go through life, make sense of the world, building on the archive of our personal experiences and opinions on other places.

In the absence of direct experience with a people or a nation, we speculate on what we don’t know. This process involves a variety of sources, including reading, Google search, and the accounts of someone we trust. But often it’s the media that expose people to other cultures, beyond our own.

Television and movies fill knowledge gaps with powerful images and stories that inform the way we think about different cultures. If the media messages are consistent over time, we can come to understand them as facts.

But media representations may well be inaccurate. Of course, they are incomplete. This is because movies and TV series aren’t necessarily meant to portray reality; they are designed for entertainment.

Angelina Jolie in a boat in a canal in Venice, surrounded by crew members
Actor Angelina Jolie filming ‘The Tourist’ in Venice, Italy, in 2010.
Barbara Zanon / Getty Images

As a result, they can be misleading, even biased, based on stereotypes and perpetuate them.

For example, there is no shortage of Italian-American and Italian-American Stereotypes in American Entertainment. From the award-winning “Godfather” saga to the less critically acclaimed “Jersey Shore” television series, Italians are often portrayed as tasteless, uneducated, linked to organized crime – or all three.

Media is a window to the world

But the way people are exposed multimedia entertainment exchange. Today, streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV +, and Disney + collectively have 1 billion subscribers worldwide.

Being a newcomer to original content production, Netflix cannot rely on a large library of proprietary content to fuel its 204 million paying members in over 190 countries, as old Hollywood players can. He therefore creates more and more original productions, including a number of originals in languages ​​other than English places like Mexico, France, Italy, Japan and Brazil.

Screenshot of the Netflix homepage
An excerpt from Netflix’s international programming on April 2, 2021.
Screenshot, Netflix.com

We could call this an example of “entertainment glocalization– a company operating on a global scale, adapting its content to meet the expectations of local audiences around the world.

This is already the modus operandi, for example, of many popular reality TV shows. “American Idol” is an American adaptation of European “Pop Idol”. “The X Factor”, “Big Brother” and “Dancing with the Stars” have similar international origins.

Now, however, with glocalization comes a twist: Netflix intends to distribute its localized content internationally, beyond local markets.

It is not the global reach of the Netflix platform per se that would shatter old stereotypes. French critics criticized the Netlix series produced in the United States and distributed internationally.Emily in Paris»For his cliché and fictionalized representation of the city.

“Emily in Paris” was an American version of Paris, and French critics hated it.

Foreign television executives must create shows for Netflix that both appeal to local audiences and have international potential, while remaining authentic in their portrayal of their country. If the Italian Netflix team thinks “The Godfather” is what international audiences expect from Italy, international audiences can tune in – but Italians cannot.

To become truly international, Netflix should also foster the development of original local ideas not only in European countries with well-developed cultural industries, but also in smaller countries and those with emerging entertainment industries, like African nations.

The Netflix Opportunity – and the Challenge

A side effect of this strategy could be that Netflix upsets the traditional way the media informs our understanding of foreign peoples and lands by more accurately depicting these places.

But it is a tall order, and of course it is not guaranteed.

Netflix’s transformative potential comes from empowering local creatives to tell stories about their own cultures and then truly distribute them internationally. This will depend on the company’s willingness to implement this strategy in a coherent, sustained, inclusive and thoughtful manner.

Over time, widespread exposure to a wide range of international media content could change the way people in the United States and around the world think and experience other cultures that they never, and might never, have. , get in direct contact.

It only takes one click – a choice to watch, perhaps even without knowing it, a series produced abroad.

The way Netflix works, using algorithms to suggest content As viewers make selections, it can prolong initial exposure and interest in foreign content. Artificial intelligence meant to feed us more of what we love can become a surprising force for change, causing us to rethink what we thought we knew.The conversation

Paolo Sigismondi, Clinical Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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