Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos Says $2.5BN Korean Investment Won’t Exploit Local Industry, Amid Pushback From Lawmakers

During a three-day visit to Seoul, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the streamer is fairly compensating producers and nurturing new talent, after calls from some local lawmakers and industry figures for more profit-sharing with creators. 

Sarandos said emerging writers and directors are getting more breaks as a result of its investment, while global breakout shows like Squid Game had created thousands of jobs. “Between 2022 and 2025 for example, one in five of our titles made for Netflix will come from a first-time writer or first-time director,” he told a press conference in Seoul on Thursday (June 22). 

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South Korea has produced some of Netflix’s biggest global shows – including Squid Game, The Glory and Extraordinary Attorney Woo – and the streamer announced a $2.5BN investment in Korean content in April. 

However, local lawmakers have been voicing concerns about Netflix’s growing dominance in the local entertainment industry. In the wake of Squid Game’s success, questions were asked about Netflix’s profit-sharing arrangements with local producers, and more recently, Netflix’s tax contributions and stance on network usage fees have become a hot topic. 

Last week, the Korean government announced plans to provide $390M (KRW500BN) to help local streaming platforms compete with global streamers, including Netflix, as they tackle soaring production costs. 

Speaking at the press conference, Sarandos added that about 60% of Netflix global members have watched Korean content and that 90% of viewing for Korean romance titles now comes from outside Korea. 

“In the longer term, we need to learn, adapt and innovate together. It’s not always going to be easy as the audiences are incredibly demanding…but we are committed to the partnership because we have seen first-hand how much our members love K-content,” he continued. 

He also said that local Netflix subsidiaries Scanline and Eyeline Studios Korea would invest $100M in local content over the next six years, in addition to the $2.5BN previously announced. 

Don Kang, Netflix’s vice president of Korean content, said the company is planning to invest more in Korean films and non-fiction, after initially focusing more on series.

South Korean producers thanked Netflix for its support, but also asked for better profit-sharing and compensation. “Content creators are concerned about how to distribute profits. I hope we can work together to double them,” said Byun Seung-min, CEO of Climax Studio, which produced military police show D.P. for Netflix. 

Sarandos responded: “We definitely are guaranteeing that the creators and the producers and studios are all compensated very fairly. It’s a very competitive market, so any deal that we make we’re typically in competition with others for the same projects. So we compensate at the very top of the market.”

Sarandos also met South Korean director Park Chan-wook and a group of local film students yesterday (June 21), during which he said: “When we made our first investment in a Korean movie with Okja in 2017, not just me, but the whole world fell in love with Korean cinema. Nobody can hold a candle to the current level of the Korean film industry.”

Park is co-scripting and producing his first Netflix project, historical film War And Revolt, directed by Kim Sang-man and starring Gang Dong-won and Park Jeong-min.

Sarandos also met with Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to discuss cooperation between the South Korean and U.S. entertainment industries. 

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