Le Flop! Foreign-Language Content in America
It's 804 days since the last 'Squid Game'. Data shows how little non-English content has worked since
Last week, Netflix’s description of its new series Criminal Code caught my eye:
Grammatically, I’m not sure that sentence even works. The show’s IMDb page has an even harder-to-parse description:
I don’t know if the show Criminal Code on Netflix is good or bad, but I do know that Netflix barely marketed it in America; after all, it can’t even make a description designed for U.S. audiences, as opposed to one that sounds like an AI translation of the original Portuguese version.
If we’re talking bad foreign films and TV shows, you know what that means... it’s time for me to debunk, again, everyone’s favorite/most-frustrating/enduring myth of the Streaming Wars:1
All content is global!
To set the stage, ever since Squid Game came out and became a monster, pundits, with 100 percent certainty, said that “Squid Game changes everything! All content is global now!” In other words, the U.S. media landscape was about to be fundamentally changed, as foreign TV shows and films would compete with (or out-compete) English language/U.S.-based TV shows.
As I’ve been chronicling since I first started writing for The Ankler, this theory hasn’t actually worked out in practice. In particular, non-English language content has really, really, really, really, really struggled in America.
If foreign content was going to win over American viewers, or at least compete with English-language content, you’d think there’d never been a better time than now:
Hollywood has been releasing a ton of foreign TV shows in America. For a long time, it was just Netflix making local foreign content. Now Disney, Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon Studios are getting in on the action.
Due to the strikes, streaming is basically running an experiment if foreign content (both English and foreign language) can fill the void. After the WGA and SAG-AFTRA went on strike, U.S.-based, English-language TV show production ground to a halt. Though new series are coming out each week, there are fewer than before, opening up a big window/opportunity for foreign content to take the place of U.S.-made, English-language content.
So... what happened? In this issue, I’m going to…
Show how foreign content has become less popular since Squid Game.
Look at how specific foreign shows and films from the last two months have performed.
Show which foreign country’s content is becoming increasingly unloved.
And share who this is bad news and good news for.
And what this means, strategically, for the streamers with global ambitions. (Probably not what you think!)