Netflix named Axel Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner to its board of directors last week, saying his experience at “Europe’s leading digital publishing house” will give the company invaluable perspective and insight as it pursues growth abroad.

Mathias Doepfner (courtesy of Axel Springer SE)

Doepfner took the helm at Axel Springer in 2002. He’s overseen the digital transformation of the company from a traditional print publisher to an operator of leading online media sites like Business Insider and digital classifieds, like StepStone Group (jobs), along with numerous European real estate portals.

In 2008, just 1 percent of Axel Springer’s revenue and profits came from digital assets, Andreas Wiehle, president of classifieds media, explained in an interview in April (worth listening to). Now, the digital segment generates more than 65 percent of group revenue and 80 percent of EBITDA. Classifieds have been the single biggest driver of this growth, with a 37 percent share of the group revenue (H1 FY2018 figures) and consistent double-digit growth.

Netflix has had an even longer analog-to-digital journey, launching as a mail-order DVD rental service in 1998 and developing into the world’s largest streaming service (if you leave out China).

More than half (72 million) of Netflix’s 130 million members are now located outside the U.S. According to company reports, Asia Pacific is its fastest-growing region, but Western Europe is forecast to gain 16 million new subscribers by 2023. As part of its international strategy, Netflix wants to customize more content for local markets, which is why its added Doepfner’s expertise to the board.

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