Netflix (s NFLX) recently announced that it has put its international expansion on hold until global profitability returns, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t already making plans for additional markets.
A recent job ad searched for language specialists fluent in a dozen additional languages to localize the Netflix service. The ad, which has since been taken down, read in part:
“We are looking for experienced linguists with the ability to translate and customize marketing, UI and content materials for the target market. We are looking for highly motivated individuals with the right mix of technical, organizational and communication skills to provide localization for the Netflix experience in the following languages: Turkish, Dutch, Russian, French, Hindi, German, Italian, Danish, Korean, Finnish, Japanese, and Spanish.”
Netflix first crossed the U.S. border when it expanded to Canada in September of 2010, and then surprised everyone with a massive expansion to 43 countries across Latin America and the Carribean in July. Most recently, the company announced that it will open shop in the U.K. and Ireland in early 2012, and a Variety report hinted at an expansion to Spain in 2012 as well.
This kind of aggressive international expansion doesn’t come cheap: Netflix announced in conjunction with its most recent quarterly earnings that it expects to lose between $60 million and $70 million in foreign markets during the current quarter, and CEO Reed Hastings said during the Q3 earnings call that any further expansion is put on hold until the company returns to global profitability, which could take “some number of quarters.”
So Netflix won’t come to Korea, or any of the other countries mentioned, in the next few months. However, one shouldn’t assume that the company stands by idle, watching revenue numbers without preparing any further international roll-out. Of course, Netflix also wouldn’t want to tell the world where exactly it is gonna go next, which is why we should assume that some of those languages mentioned were simply thrown in the mix to confuse competitors.
Still, it’s worth looking at the list, if only to evaluate what would make the most sense for Netflix. I have to say I see three likely scenarios:
- Russia and India: Netflix could further expand to emerging markets, which would be a similar long term bet as their launch in Latin America.
- France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Turkey: Targeting continental Europe could be harder and more costly for Netflix, but also possibly bring some short-term rewards as the Internet infrastructure in most of those countries is en par, if not better than in the U.S., and household income isn’t far behind. This would essentially be a logical follow-up to its U.K. and Ireland plans.
- Japan and Korea: Asia might be even more interesting to Netflix; Hulu of course recently launched in Japan, but I have a hunch that Korea would be an even better fit. The country has some of the home fastest Internet connections in the world, and people are already used to cloud media, thanks to countless Webhard-style offerings. Also, Netflix has seen a huge influx of Korean content in recent months, which would be essential to target the local market.
In the end, we’ll have to wait and see until Netflix makes some money again to figure out which of those countries it has had on the top of its list. A Netflix spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t discuss recruitment issues when asked about the job offer.