The top Netflix show in Vietnam is a show you’ve never heard about

By Vi Vu   May 10, 2017 | 09:10 am GMT+7

‘House of Cards’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ can be big elsewhere, but viewers in Vietnam have a completely different favorite.

From just another streaming service, Netflix has transformed into a global cultural phenomenon, churning out hits after hits, changing the concept of “TV shows” and reaching almost all corners of the world – just not in China.

The secretive company hardly ever discloses ratings or viewership information, so questions about who’s watching and what’s being watched have never been answered.

This month the research team at HighSpeedInternet.com has released a new report, trying to find the most popular Netflix show in each market. Due to the lack of data from the streaming giant, the team has turned to Google Trends to rank countries and territories by their number of Netflix-related searches and cross-referenced their ranks with their most-searched show.

While the results in most markets are relatively predictable, with popular shows such as “House of Cards” and “Friends” popping up as the number one choice here and there, the top show in Vietnam comes as a surprise: "Empresses in the Palace."

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A partial world map showing the most popular show on Netflix in each market. Graphic by HighSpeedInternet

Don’t panic if you have never heard about it. The Chinese costume drama, aired in China in 2011 and released internationally in 2015, is relatively unknown to viewers outside East Asia.

"Empresses" follows the intrigues among the emperor’s concubines in the imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty. Netflix acquired the show in early 2015, and it was seen as a very big deal.

But the English version caused some controversy online after the total runtime was cut sharply from nearly 60 hours to just nine. Several reviews also said parts of the English subtitles and episode summaries were inaccurate.

Netflix arrived in Vietnam as part of a global expansion in January 2016, offering unlimited movies and TV shows for a monthly fee of VND180,000-260,000 ($8-12).

It has to compete with local service provider Fim+ and iflix from Malaysia. And of course there are many websites offering pirated movies and TV shows for only a few dollars a month or even for free, sometimes within hours after the official release in the U.S. or the U.K.

So if you are intrigued, you can try to watch "Empresses" tonight, if the show happens to be available where you are.

Otherwise, the film critics at VnExpress say "13 Reasons Why" is worth checking out and is trending in Vietnam.