Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently pronounced his intentions to take the streaming service global, and today, we’re seeing evidence that his plan is very much in motion. According to The Wall Street Journal, Netflix is reportedly in talks to bring its content, including popular original series like House of Cards, to China through local media partnerships.
The streaming service has been talking with online broadcasters in the country, including BesTV and Wasu Media Holding Co., the latter of which is backed by a group that includes Alibaba’s Executive Chairman Jack Ma. But the biggest roadblocks lie with the need for censorship of content that could be considered objectionable — topics like sex, violence, and politics. Anyone who’s watched shows like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, can likely recall numerous potentially problematic scenes.
That said, House of Cards is actually already popular in China. But due to new rules, the most recent third season has yet to become available until it is fully reviewed by the county’s media regulator. These new foreign content rules came into effect in April, requiring that all foreign programming, including standard TV fare like Mad Men and The Simpsons, can’t be shown until a season’s end, when each episode can go through a thorough review process. If there’s questionable content, it must be cut.
Netflix has previously expressed interest in offering a small service in China that focuses on its original and other licensed content. But the company has not officially publicly commented on the latest talks about an entrance into China coming soon.
China represents a lucrative market of online video viewers for Netflix. And Wasu would be a good partner to have since it has a license to offer content on mobile phones, computers, and set-top boxes. Not to mention that Ma is a major influential figure in China, with plenty of influence on the technology side there.
It would be an interesting move, and a new model for Netflix, a company that is often in the driver’s seat when it comes to how its content is presented. It would also require a local partnership – something Netflix has not had to do in any other country to date, but nonetheless a requirement given China’s strict governmental rules for online content.