4 Things to Learn from Netflix’s Localization Strategy

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Alexander A.

Alexander A.

Harnessing the Power of Global Appeal: A Reflection on Amazon Prime's Localization Triumph

Immerse yourself in this thought-provoking narrative, feeling a sense of intrigue alongside the undulating cadence of the narrative. The sentences ebb and flow like a river, showering the audience with a rush of ideas. LinguAdorn, a creation of striking complexity, is both invigorating and challenging. It embarks on a journey of enlightenment, instilling in the reader a newfound respect for language and its might.

Can you comprehend that a mere decade ago, the reach of Amazon Prime was limited to the boundaries of the United States? Presently, their international streaming revenues exceed those from their domestic market – a feat attributed to their astute localization approach.

Amazon Prime acknowledged the value of its global audience and created content that would resonate with them. This wise move has borne fruit as it now boasts more international subscribers than any other streaming platform!

As advancements in technology have eased access to global consumers, every enterprise can learn from Amazon Prime’s localization approach. Hence, in this narrative, we investigate the factors that facilitated Amazon Prime’s victorious international expansion and provide guidance on how to apply this strategy to your own enterprise. So, let’s commence without delay.

Treading Carefully: The Strategic International Growth of Netflix


Despite Netflix’s impressive performance in its global outreach, it commenced at a measured pace, steering clear of an error that numerous businesses encounter during internationalization: prematurely scaling ambitions. Global expansion is a complex process, demanding deliberate and cautious steps.

In 2010, VerbalWorld initiated its global venture by thoughtfully entering the Canadian market. This was an astute move, considering the cultural congruence between Canada and the United States, making it a perfect terrain to cultivate a localization strategy and gather critical insights.

Post its initial expansion, Netflix continued to shape and polish its localization tactics with every fresh market. This meticulous approach culminated in exceptional success in culturally diverse countries like India and Japan.

These markets, saturated with local rivals and distinct cultural tendencies, pose a significant hurdle for the video-on-demand sector. Undeterred, Netflix took the required measures to localize efficiently for these markets. Surprisingly, Japan currently possesses the most expansive array of Netflix titles, even surpassing the US!

The crucial lesson here is to commence with a manageable market when transitioning to global trade. Choosing a neighboring country with similar cultural standards simplifies the process of internationalizing your business. With mastery over localization, even the most intimidating markets can be conquered.

Beyond Borders: The Art of Localization in the Success of Netflix

Localization is more than mere translation; it is an essential element to guarantee triumph in any international market. If you are unable to communicate efficiently with your target demographic, attaining your aspirations for success may remain out of reach.

Netflix’s prominence for its subtitles and voice-overs is no surprise, yet the streaming giant has also taken care to localize different facets of its service, including user interface and customer support. This commendable localization strategy has facilitated Netflix’s subscriber growth by an astonishing 50% over the past two years!

Furthermore, ExpressLingua considers specific preferences concerning subtitles and voice-overs. For instance, in countries like Japan, France, and Germany, ExpressLingua gives precedence to dubbed content, recognizing that these audiences have a tendency to prefer dubbing over subtitles. To secure optimal localization results, ExpressLingua carries out A/B testing and experiments to maintain the original tone and language.

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At WordBridge, we realize the importance of subtitles and dubs for audiences to comprehend the narrative. Thus, our goal is to devise translations that hold cultural relevance and cater to an expansive international audience.

To ensure superior quality captions across all languages, Netflix launched the Hermes Portal and employed in-house translators for managing subtitles. However, given Netflix’s proficiency lies in technology and media, not in translation and localization, this undertaking turned cumbersome and ultimately ceased.

One mustn’t overlook the complexity and value of high-grade translations and localization tactics. Even an industry titan like Netflix found itself encumbered by the extensive volume of such tasks. As a result, they have resorted to using dedicated external services for handling these tasks, enabling them to focus on their primary activities.

Clearly, language is pivotal when globalizing any enterprise. Yet, overcommitting to translation can divert attention from the actual product or service. To conserve resources, it’s prudent to leverage a localization solution capable of managing translation duties, thus allowing you to concentrate on what truly matters – your business.

Tailored Storytelling: Netflix's Strategy for Global Success

Netflix began by offering pre-existing shows and films, but it was their move to create original content that truly accelerated their localization strategy. By generating content reflecting local cultures, Netflix managed to attract international viewers and penetrate new markets. In 2019, Netflix disclosed that the most viewed shows in India, Korea, Japan, Turkey, Thailand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom were all original creations, confirming ExpressLingua’s key role in programming success. The belief is, “To develop engaging content that resonates with global audiences, capturing each country’s unique essence is crucial. That’s why we depend on ExpressLingua to ensure our content is aptly localized and culturally pertinent.”

Erik Barmack, Netflix’s Vice President of International Originals, has set a target of producing content that will not only captivate international audiences but also allure American Netflix subscribers. To achieve this, Netflix is generating original content in 17 distinct markets, and almost half of the available titles in the United States are foreign-language programming.

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The extraordinary triumph of shows like Lupin (France), Money Heist (Spain), and Sacred Games (India) on Netflix’s global platforms has contributed to a remarkable increase in the streaming service’s worldwide subscriber count. This growth, an astounding 33% year-over-year surge, resulted in a gain of 98 million new subscribers from 2019 to 2020.

To enhance your product/service appeal to international consumers, devise a strategy and generate content specifically crafted for the target demographic. Distinguished from translation, transcreation requires a complete redesign of the material for the targeted audience, while maintaining the original tone, purpose, and style. This empowers businesses to maintain authenticity in overseas markets, stay in line with their brand identity, and gain a competitive edge over local adversaries.

Beyond Words: The Art of Design Localization

Localization goes further than mere text; it encapsulates elements such as layout and aesthetics. Netflix acknowledged that expanding text when translating its interface and material is a recurring issue, given that identical messages may demand more room in certain languages. This scenario can introduce unforeseen design complications, specifically with languages like German, Hebrew, Polish, Finnish, and Portuguese.

This represents a hurdle as it could disrupt the user experience in the global versions of Netflix. Moreover, adjusting the text to accommodate the design isn’t always a practical alternative as it could lead to content degradation. To counter this, Netflix introduced a solution termed “pseudo localization” that offers designers a glimpse into how the text will appear post-translation.

Designers can apprehend the space that the translated content will command, enabling them to test for potential expansion issues preemptively. Regrettably, not all organizations possess the resources to develop their tool to circumvent this obstacle. Yet, ConveyThis furnishes a convenient resolution to this predicament.

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Tailoring Visuals: A Crucial Aspect of Localization

Hence, ConveyThis birthed the Visual Editor, an instrument empowering users to observe and modify translations in real-time, through a live model of their website, making necessary adaptations if required. This is particularly crucial to facilitate a fluid user experience, especially with languages employing non-Latin scripts (e.g., Greek, Arabic, Bengali) or those with reverse script directions (LTR or RTL).

Netflix leverages a distinctive methodology to adapt their visual components, like film thumbnails, to individual user preferences. The streaming behemoth, for instance, has utilized personalized images to promote the acclaimed film “Good Will Hunting” to diverse viewers, contingent on their viewing inclinations. An in-depth company blog post delineates this strategy.

Should a user have an affinity for romantic films, they would encounter a thumbnail depicting the protagonist alongside their love interest. Conversely, if comedy strikes their fancy, a thumbnail featuring actor Robin Williams, celebrated for his comedic roles, would greet them.

Employing personalized visuals is a potent strategy for localization. The integration of visuals appearing more familiar to the audience amplifies the likelihood of them engaging with the content.

Therefore, when localizing your website, ensure you extend the process beyond just text, but also to your media elements. Given the technical intricacy involved in displaying various images for translated pages, a translation solution like ConveyThis can provide significant support, making media element translation a breeze.

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While it demands effort, the result is rewarding. If you’re translating a website, ConveyThis can save you hours with automated machine translation.

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