Netflix has truly gone global. During a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show this morning, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings turned on the streaming service in 130 countries, including Vietnam, Poland, Russia, India, Nigeria and South Korea. For comparison's sake, Netflix was live in only 60 countries before today.
The big exception to the list is China, where significant Internet restrictions have held back streaming video. All global content includes Netflix's catalog of programs and original shows in 21 languages.
"When we started Netflix nearly 20 years ago, we dreamed of the day when the Internet would enable us to deliver TV shows and movies to the billions of people with whom we share the planet with," Hastings said. "Today, I am delighted to announce that while we have been here onstage at CES, we switched Netflix on in Azerbaijan, in Vietnam, in India, in Nigeria, in Poland, in Russia, in Saudi Arabia, in Singapore, in South Korea, in Turkey, in Indonesia and in 130 new countries. While you have been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in nearly every country of the world but China, where we hope to also be in the future. Today, right now, you are witnessing the birth of a global TV network."
Hastings also shared new stats about how much content people watch. During the fourth quarter of 2015, people watched 12 billion hours of programming on Netflix, up from 8.25 billion hours in the same period the year before.
The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company reaches 70 million homes globally—a number that's sure to jump with today's major expansions. In the U.S., 50 percent of households have Netflix, a milestone that Hastings claimed took the cable industry more than 20 years to achieve.
Hastings credited his company's quick growth not only to faster Internet speeds, but also to the site's algorithm that constantly learns about users' preferences to recommend additional content they may be interested in.
"Every year, we do hundreds of A/B tests to refine what we present to each of our users," Hastings said. "Our members pick the winners, resulting in more viewing, more engagement and more satisfaction. One day, we hope to get so good at suggestions that we're able to show you exactly the right film or TV show for your mood when you turn on Netflix."
That algorithm is one of the factors behind Netflix's success with original series, including Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. This year, Netflix plans to offer more than 600 hours of original programming, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer.
During the CES presentation, Sarandos previewed some of the new programming Netflix is launching this year, including a series called The Crown, which follows the collapse of Britain under Queen Elizabeth and the creation of the country's modern culture.
Netflix's original content is increasingly winning the approval of Hollywood stars who want to create their own shows and play riskier characters. During the panel, Chelsea Handler, Will Arnett, Krysten Ritter and Wagner Moura all talked about working with Netflix on projects that would have been harder to make through traditional film and TV.
"Members can enjoy shows anytime, and based on their viewing habits, we can put the right one in front of them each and every time," Sarandos said. "That means we can spend less on marketing and still generate higher viewership, even from smaller, quirkier, less traditionally commercial material. That means we can take more risk."