Reelgood Heralds the ‘Summer of the Subtitle’

Youre not just imagining it there are more non-English viewing choices on the major subscription streaming services than ever. 

Call it the summer of the subtitle. With Hollywood on strike and U.S. film and TV production essentially halted, subscription streaming services, led by Netflix, are showing us more foreign titles than ever.

According to streaming intelligence platform Reelgood, nearly 51% of movies on Netflix speak in a different tongue vs. 40% just four years ago. And almost 49% of Netflix TV shows are non-English, vs. 33% in 2019.

Other big streamers are shifting their content mixes to local-language titles, too. Amazon Prime Video, for instance, has a TV library thats 31% non-English. Thats more than double the share from just two years ago, Reelgood said. And Peacock, which had a library consisting of about 6% foreign series titles last year, is now up to nearly 14% foreign language shows.

The global popularity of content from specific regions like Korea and Latin America has surged recently. With Squid Game setting a viewership record for a Netflix global platform thats now distributed into 190 countries, nearly 9% of the TV shows on Netflix are now locally produced in Korea vs. just 5% four years ago, according to Reelgood.

Similarly, Spanish-language TV titles on Netflix, including last years smash-hit Colombian romantic drama Café con Aroma de Mujer, have seen their market share within Netflixs overall library swell from 5% to nearly 9% since 2019, Reelgood data indicates.

And its a virtuous cycle increased demand for international shows is driving more supply of these titles, and more programming options, in turn, results in more watching.

For example, a tally of the viewership minutes in Netflixs Global Top 10 rankings this summer finds that streaming of non-English TV shows is up 30% vs. last summer, while non-English film watching is up 20%.

The Korean romcom King the Land was the No. 1 title on Netflixs global platform, capturing over 65 million hours of combined streaming worldwide.

Other Netflix foreign-language hits this summer have included the Mexican drama The Surrogacy and the Colombian romantic thriller Fake Profile.

Netflix remains way out of the major U.S. subscription streamers in producing and distributing international content, but operators, including Amazon, are working to catch up. Amazon Prime Video, for instance, has made significant investments in the Asia-Pacific reason of late, commissioning 41 local shows in India just last summer.