Harith Iskander helps Netflix localise further with comedy special

Netflix has launched its first local original comedy production from Southeast Asia (SEA) with prominent Malaysian comedian, Harith Iskander (pictured).

In Harith Iskander’s stand-up comedy special “I Told You So”, the Malaysian comedian takes the stage with his distinctly SEA blend of humor, tackling everything from family drama, awkward dating experiences, to social and cultural issues that a lot of Malaysians and Singaporeans encounter on a daily basis. In addition to Harith Iskander, Netflix is also bringing Singaporean comedian Fakkah Fuzz and Malaysian stand-up artist Kavin Jay to global screens in early 2018.

The three comedy specials will premiere in all Netflix territories around the world on the following dates: Harith Iskander’s “I Told You So” on 19 January, Fakkah Fuzz’s “Almost Banned” on 26 January, and Kavin Jay’s “Everybody Calm Down!” on 2 February.

The news comes amid rising competition in the local video streaming space with the likes of iflix and dimsum. In August last year, iflix completed a US$133 million funding round, in which proceeds will be used to invest in its local content strategy. Around the same time, iflix unveiled its first exclusive original and local production, Oi Jaga Mulut, an audacious, uncensored, no holds barred stand-up comedy series.

In Indonesia, it partnered with TVOne to launch live premiere football streaming, available for the first time in the country. In Philippines, iflix partnered with the Philippines’ Queen of All Media, Kris Aquino, to commission an original drama series. Meanwhile, in August 2017, Star Media Group which owns dimsum also collaborated with Shanghai Media Group (SMG), to provide a series of A-list and exclusive Chinese content produced by SMG. The deal finalised an initial cooperation term of two years of exchange of content on each other’s digital distribution platforms.

Erika North, head of international originals for Asia, at Netflix said, “Ultimately, we believe in compelling stories and story-tellers that transcend borders, and we are giving them the creative freedom and the global distribution platform to bring that vision to life.”

Since its global launch in 190 countries in early 2016, Netflix's spokesperson said it has been rapidly growing its footprint in Asia, and "expanding its content library to encompass more international content in its catalog, including new, original, quality storytelling from Asia." The company currently has originals in production or in discussion in over 15 countries and regions this year including Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

Harith Iskander, who is the first comedian from Malaysia to be a part of Netflix’s original production, added, "We chose to work with Netflix not only because of its vast reach to audiences around the world, but also because of how open they are in embracing our unique flavor of humor that’s so different from mainstream comedies you normally see on TV.”