How ‘Okja’ Helped Netflix Corral New South Korean Subscribers

Streaming service added more than 5 million subscribers worldwide last quarter

Streaming giant Netflix has 104 million subscribers in more than 190 countries, but it’s not quite a household name everywhere yet. However, a movie starring a giant pig, “Okja,” helped give it a much higher profile in the valuable South Korean market.

Netflix reported blowout second-quarter earnings Monday, adding about 2 million more subscribers than expected, which sent its stock skyrocketing more than 10 percent in after-hours trading. Four-fifths of those new subscribers came from international territories. On a webcast following the earnings release, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos credited new seasons of two of the service’s most popular original series, “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” for driving some of those new users — and also said Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja,” which hit the platform at the end of the quarter, played a significant role in some of its growth in South Korea.

“It helped attract new subscribers but it also brings a brand halo to Netflix that it’s great content worth paying for,” Sarandos said on the webcast. “For most people, they learned about Netflix for the first time when ‘Okja’ was coming out in Korea.”

Sarandos said “Okja’s” particular popularity in Bong’s home market of South Korea validates Netflix’s strategy of finding premium content from particular markets and using its platform to expose it to the wider world — and add value to its subscription service.

“Think about local content for global audiences,” Sarandos said. “That’s a fantastic story to make a great movie for Korea. It’s even a bigger story that the movie is getting watched by millions around the world.”

However, “Okja” wasn’t applauded in every international territory. The Netflix logo was booed when the film held its first press screening at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and the jeers intensified when technical problems arose. Two months later, Netflix had the last laugh.