What are the differences between Japan and the US concerning streaming services usage ?

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Japan took longer to embrace subscription-based video streaming services but it’s finally here ! There are some reasons to explain why it comes so late though. First of all, it may sound surprising but video rental stores are still very popular in Japan, that may explain why this kind of service wasn’t very popular until recently.

Another reason can be that the world largest online video-providers, Netflix and Amazon, launched their services in Japan in September 2015, making the competition tougher for local players.

There are currently 15,7% of Japanese (source : Jiji Press) who subscribed to a video streaming service to watch movies. In comparison, 57% of Americans are using one of those services (source : CNBC survey) ! There is still a long way to go for Japan in this field…

Let’s take a look at the rankings below to have a more precise idea about those respective markets. For your information, those apps are ranked according to Monthly Active Users numbers.

Japanese rather “Amazon & Chill”

First of all, we can notice that 3 apps are in both rankings, but not at the same positions ! While Netflix is largely leading the market in the US with several millions of active users, that’s a different story in Japan.

Amazon is the current leader, and probably took advantage of pre-existing Amazon Japanese customers to gain market shares and be widely adopted. GYAO! is the service launched by Yahoo Japan, dTV is the one launched by telco giant NTT Docomo and Hulu Japan operation has been owned by broadcaster Nippon TV since 2014 (Hulu has been on the Japanese market since 2011).

Netflix “only” appears at the 5th position of this Japanese ranking, you’d probably wonder why, but we’re gonna explain later why there’s such a big difference between their position in the US and the one in Japan.

Americans love binge-watching

We compared the 3 apps with the best MAU ratio in both countries to learn more about the watching habits of video streaming services users, and even if Japanese apps have a higher proportion of MAU in average, American apps have a higher proportion of DAU !

When they start watching a new series, Americans users are more willing to watch several episodes in a row and finish the entire season in few days than Japanese users, who prefer to use streaming services more parsimoniously.

The gender and age ratio is very diverse depending on the streaming service and the catalogue each of them propose, but we can notice there is generally a more masculine audience for Japanese services !

The Netflix paradox

Netflix is the uncontested leader in the US, far away above the competition, but their mobile app still struggles on the Japanese market… It actually can be explained by mainly 2 reasons :

Despite an important amount of downloads, Netflix does not have a big proportion of active users. It’s apparently due to some problems that users meet by using the mobile app, that makes it impossible to use correctly (Either on Android or iOS).

As you can see above, the average rating is much better on the US iTunes page ! Some users report login, language or UX problems in their comments, which can express a lack of effort from Netflix to adapt to the Japanese market.

Netflix seems to be more about content for US audiences, despite the “American” version of Death Note that was surprisingly well-received by the Japanese audience.

We will see in the next following months how the situation evolves. This industry is still quite young in Japan and the MAU ranking could be very different in few months !

App Ape, which provided data for this content, is a mobile apps analysis service launched in 2013, currently leader in the Japanese market. Based on big data processing technology, this tool lets you analyze more than 50 detailed indicators for most of the apps in the US, Japan and South Korea !

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