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Netflix pairs with SoftBank in preparation for Japan launch

The telco giant will handle the business end of the SVOD's entry into the Japanese market, including billing and subscription sales.
August 24, 2015

Netflix has partnered with Japanese telco giant SoftBank in a strategic move designed to help integrate the SVOD service into the Japanese market following its planned launch in that country on Sept. 2.

Netflix announced the union Aug. 24. Under the deal, SoftBank will handle the business end of the Netflix customer experience in Japan, including billing. SoftBank customers will be able to sign up for the SVOD service at Softbank shops (as well as major electronics retailers where mobiles are sold), the SoftBank website and via call centres — all without filling out new payment information. The Netflix monthly fee will be added to their existing mobile bill.

SoftBank confirmed it will begin pre-installing the Netflix app on its smartphones for sale after October 2015. No price for the app has yet been made public.

However, Netflix did roll out its monthly pricing for the Japanese market. A basic plan will cost subscribers 650 Japanese Yen per month, or roughly U.S. $5.50/month. A standard plan (defined as two-stream, high definition) is set at 950 JPY ($8.50) and a premium plan (four stream, 4k, ultra-high def) will run 1,450 JPY ($12.25). All the costs are subject to the country’s taxes.

Japan is considered a natural market for SVOD expansion. Chris Ciaccia, tech editor at The Street, told StreamDaily in an earlier interview that Japanese viewers have demonstrated a strong appetite for streaming services, adding, “it makes sense that (Netflix) would want to expand there.”

Netflix, which counts a subscriber case of 65 million across more than 50 countries, has not yet announced its intentions to enter China, but that move remains hotly anticipated.

SoftBank, meanwhile, has its own streaming service to offer, though for how long that will continue is anyone’s guess. In 2014, the company bought DramaFever, a niche SVOD with a focus on Asian, primarily Korean, content. (It recently added more English-language programming to its library). However, it appears DramaFever is again for sale again. Company founder and CEO Seung Bak recently told StreamDaily that the discussions around ownership of DramaFever are complicated, but he declined to provide further detail.  

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