Quizzed on if Netflix’s algorithm-driven tastes lean towards the mainstream, Kosse suggested there was some misunderstanding about how the streamer analyses its data and considers its audience.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions around the behavior of our members. We have 170 million and growing global members, and it’s incredibly diverse with incredibly diverse tastes,” the exec said on stage, noting that even a top-performing title only ever represents a small percentage of viewing share.
“People have diverse tastes and behaviors, we’re always looking to program for that incredibly diverse worldwide community so they are pleased with our service,” he said. “More and more they want stories from everywhere. A lot of preconceptions of what people will watch and where have been defined by traditional distributors, and they aren’t necessarily reflective of tastes.”
“We’re looking for a really diverse array of shows and series because the behaviour of our members is diverse. The number of people who like arthouse movies on a global level is significant,” he commented.
The Netflix exec added that he believes non-mainstream films often work better on a streaming service than in a theater because of convenience, “There are a lot more people at home who are willing to click on an arthouse movie on a Friday night than those who are wiling to go to theaters.”
Kosse discussed successful international programming on the platform, highlighting early success Narcos which he called “a prime example of a show that was popular around the world”, as well as Spanish series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist).
He suggested that, if those shows had been made through the traditional broadcasting model, they might have still been successful, but would have been unlikely to have the joined-up global reach that they achieved on Netflix, and benefit from the buzz and impact that came with that.
Asked if those projects still fitted into a ‘mainstream’ classification, despite being foreign-language, Kosse pointed to German originals Dark and How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast), which have been hits, as well as the American series Stranger Things, as examples of series that “didn’t look mainstream at script stage”.
This year, the streamer has four German originals being released. Kosse said that his London-based international team is looking to go into production on between nine and ten films this year, and that it would be increasingly that “significantly year on year”. He identified Germany, France, Spain and Italy as the current focus markets, adding that it was also looking at movies out of Scandinavia.
“We believe these stories told locally can travel globally,” he said. “We want movies that will resonate with our member base, but also movies that excite non-members and encourages them to join.”
Kosse was speaking as part of the Berlin Film Festival’s EFM Horizon program. Back in December, we had the exclusive interview with the Netflix executive where he laid out his vision for the international strategy.