Netflix started in the United States and began life as the internet’s answer to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. Netflix was all about the movies, and all about its U.S. catalog — which is why it’s surprising that Netflix’s movie selection is now smaller in the United States than it is in Japan.
Netflix’s foreign libraries are generally much smaller than its original U.S. library, though the company is taking steps to change that. But when you isolate movies (as opposed to TV shows), the Japanese selection is larger than the U.S. one — 4,086 to 3,974.
The advantage is erased, however, when you add in television series. Netflix’s U.S. catalog has significantly more TV series (1,369) than its Japanese catalog (1,073), and it’s enough of a gap to make Netflix’s U.S. library a larger overall than its Japanese counterpart — if only slightly.
Things are so close thanks to the rapid growth of Netflix’s Japanese library, which has increased a remarkable 172.1% in just over one year (from 2/26/2016). By contrast, Netflix’s U.S. catalog has shrunk by 3.4% over approximately the same period (from 3/23/2016).
Netflix’s U.S. catalog is still movie-dominated, but the shift towards TV series has been noticeable. “Binge watching” offers more potential streaming hours than any one movie can, and Netflix’s original content leans heavily toward the series side of things.
On top of that, the U.S. market is highly saturated and highly competitive, with plenty of other streaming services in the mix looking for movie streaming rights.