International streaming service Netflix will invest R900-million in the South African film and television industry, it announced at the 4th Annual South African Investment Conference on Thursday.
Four productions will come from the commitment — three local and one international — all to be filmed in South Africa by 2023.
Netflix has about 200 million members in more than 190 countries, and South Africa is becoming a popular destination. This investment will bolster the creation of jobs and also lift the local economy. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa’s film industry created 31 444 full-time equivalent jobs, according to the National Film and Video Foundation, but this dropped to just 12 775 jobs in 2020-21.
Netflix has partnered with local production houses to create shows such as the recent reality TV series Young, Famous & African. The company has invested more than R2-billion in South Africa, creating jobs for about 1 900 people over the past five years.
“Netflix is committed to South Africa for the long term and we’re investing in talent both in front of and behind the camera,” said Shola Sanni, the company’s director of public policy in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Since our launch in 2016, we’ve been working with South African creators and distributors to bring high-quality stories that showcase the best of South Africa’s creativity and talent to a global audience — and this is only just the beginning.”
There are more than 80 South African productions on Netflix. A 2021 study by the streaming service in collaboration with SA Tourism showed that viewers surveyed in Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the United States and Germany were more likely to make South Africa their go-to destination and to learn a local language after watching a show featuring the country.
Netflix is working with local production partners to create a number of shows, such as Project Panda, a live-action series adaptation of the anime One Piece.
Project Panda — Netflix’s biggest African production to date — will create job opportunities for about 50 cast members and 1 000 full-time crew, according to the streaming company. Netflix also has a mentorship programme for more than 30 young creatives and technicians.
“Netflix will continue to create new opportunities and help to build up the talent required to support local productions and grow the diversity and variety of stories,” Sanni said.
“Netflix will also develop and work with the industry … to contribute meaningfully to the South African creative industry’s growth.”
Netflix would like to see the South African government maintain a favourable investment environment, Sanni said, adding: “It would be great for our long-term investment plans to see even more transparency and predictability in that area, because the presence of a reliable incentive scheme is crucial for our financial decisions.”
Lineo Leteba is an associate social media and podcast editor at the Mail & Guardian.