Netflix goes local, plans Polish original productions

WARSAW (Reuters) - Netflix Inc is expanding its Polish service to include more content subtitled or dubbed in Polish and plans to produce local shows before the end of the decade as the U.S. service seeks more subscribers away from its home market.

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Netflix, which first launched in Poland in January, said on Tuesday that 80 percent of its streamed content available in central and eastern Europe’s most populous country now has Polish subtitles or lectors.

Founded nearly 20 years ago, the distributor of popular series such as House of Cards and Narcos is boosting its subscriber base by expanding throughout the world to offset slower growth in its U.S. home market.

Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said Netflix also planned to produce content in Poland in a push to promote local movies that may be of interest to a global audience.

“A show that is interesting to Canadians, Norwegians, that shows human things,” Hastings told reporters after the official launch of the Polish Netflix version, adding that local production could be about Polish history, for example.

Asked if local production could be launched before the end of the decade, Hastings said, “If I look at other markets it has been three years, so hopefully before then”.

Netflix started streaming TV in the United States nearly a decade ago and has now launched in almost every country but it faces the task of adapting the service to different markets and cultures as competitors rush in.

In Poland, for example, Netflix is up against two local services as well as HBO GO.

“I watch a lot of Netflix movies without subtitles already, but the introduction of the Polish version will definitely broaden their viewers’ base in Poland,” said Jacek Sledzinski, a 42-year-old lawyer from Warsaw.

Hastings also said Netflix had made no progress in its plan to enter the potentially lucrative Chinese market as it still needs a government license.

Content providers in the world’s most populous country face stringent regulations and censorship challenges.

“We are continuing to work on it. Same (problem) as it has always been - government permissions, we have to get a specific licence in China,” Hastings said, adding that he could not give a specific time for when Netflix might get permission.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; editing by David Clarke