Disney wants some of Netflix’s Asian success

Disney is coming after Netflix in Asia.

The owner of Disney+ announced a major expansion into Asian content on Thursday, with plans to greenlight more than 50 original titles from the region by 2023.

Disney is commissioning new shows from South Korea, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and Indonesia. Many of the programs will be presented in local languages, from Bahasa Indonesia to Mandarin.

The move comes as fans worldwide continue to buzz over “Squid Game,” a South Korean hit from Netflix that has become the company’s top show globally. The streaming king told CNN Business exclusively this week that it had been viewed by 111 million accounts since its rollout in September, making it the company’s “biggest-ever” series launch.

Netflix has been pouring money into original Asian language content, and the streaming service has touted the global success of its Korean and Japanese programs. It’s also had hits with European series, including “Lupin,” a French mystery thriller.

Jessica Kam-Engle, Disney’s head of content and development for Asia Pacific, noted the popularity of Korean content in a presentation shown to the media on Thursday, saying that it had “evolved into a global phenomenon.”

To capture that interest, the company unveiled a sneak peek of its own slate of upcoming Korean shows, including “Snowdrop,” a romantic drama series starring Jisoo, a member of the popular K-pop band Blackpink.

Disney declined to share how much its new investment in original content would cost.

The company only launched Disney+, its flagship streaming service, in late 2019, but it has impressed analysts and investors so far.

The platform currently has more than 116 million subscribers across 61 markets around the world, including eight in the Asia Pacific region, such as India, Australia and New Zealand.

Executives are now gearing up for more launches, with debuts in South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan expected next month.

To blitz each market, the Hollywood heavyweight will be relying on the help of local creators, according to Luke Kang, the company’s president in Asia Pacific.

“Consumers across the region are increasingly demanding the best of global and the best of local language content,” he said.

Disney wants to combine the two by leaning into its storied history and existing army of talent, which include creatives from Pixar and Marvel. The company announced plans Thursday to connect hundreds of Asian creators to Disney’s global executives and producers through masterclasses, live panels and other activities.

“I believe we are at an inflection point,” said Kang. “Streaming is quickly going mainstream, and Disney+ is well placed to play a central role.”

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