Exclusive: Netflix talks India debut, content and expansion

Netflix speaks to Digit in an exclusive India interaction. Here is what the company has in store for India and its users.

By Adamya Sharma Published Date
12 - Jan - 2016
| Last Updated
12 - Jan - 2016
Exclusive: Netflix talks India debut, content and expansion

Now that most of us have been 'Netflix'ing for the better part of last week, I am sure a lot of you (just like me) would have multiple questions about the online streaming service’s India plans. I for one, submitted some of my India specific questions to Netflix on the day of its launch. Now, we have just received a set of carefully worded responses from Anne Marie Squeo, Director, Corporate Communications, Netflix (Former WSJ reporter). Although Netflix seems tight-lipped about its licensing and content deals in India, a general sense of expansion can be felt and India can expect a surge in Netflix content in the country. Until we get further information, here is Netflix’s official word on its India plans.

AS: As far as India specific content is concerned, we know these are early days, but currently, the content is limited to a handful of Indian movies. How do you plan to widen this content base?

AMS:We don’t publish a number of titles because our offering is always expanding and changing. In 2016 we plan to spend about US$5B on programming rights, including many titles that will be exclusive to Netflix around the world. That includes more than 30 new Netflix original series (or seasons of existing series.) Most of these will be available to our members everywhere, exclusively on Netflix. That’s more than one full new season of a series every other week. In addition, we’re expanding our original film initiative, launching more than 10 films exclusively on Netflix in 2016. We also are adding more kids programming and documentaries.

AS:Can Indians expect more local language content from Netflix in the future?

AMS:Netflix is a curated service and isn’t designed to offer every movie or TV series available. Instead, as a global internet TV network, we are increasingly offering programming around the world simultaneously whether that’s our Netflix original series or movies and titles we license from third parties.

AS:The pricing plan of upwards of Rs. 500 is not exactly cheap for Indians. What is the audience that Netflix is targeting?

AMS:Netflix offers exclusive programming not available anywhere else.  This content is available on demand anytime, anywhere on virtually any Internet-connected screen. We believe it is a compelling offer and those interested in checking out the service can sign up for a free trial at Netflix.com and cancel at any time. We try to keep prices around the world fairly consistent. After we launch in a given market, we will almost immediately add more content to the service and in most markets the size of the catalogue doubles in the first year. We've generally seen that early adopters of technology and entertainment enthusiasts are among the first to try the service when we launch in a new region

AS:India is a country with rampant piracy. Most of the the Netflix content watching audience has already combed through the Netflix exclusive productions through torrent downloads. How do you plan to combat the same and generate revenue through paid subscriptions?

AMS:We find people are willing to pay a fair price for great content, delivered without hassle whenever they want it as opposed to resorting to illegal methods. Our push to secure global rights and release all originals simultaneously to our global members will help address piracy by those who simply want access to the latest movies and TV shows.  There's been a notable reduction in piracy in countries where we operate such as the U.S. and Canada, where we have been the longest, according to Sandvine Internet Phenomena reports on Bittorrent.

AS:As India has many apps that provide local content and video streaming for free, what is Netflix's strategy to gain the edge over the competition?

AMS:We’re focused on making our service better -- better personalization, better streaming, better movies and TV shows. It’s up to us to win the moments when people decide what to do with their time. While competition will grow, we intend to continue being the industry leader.

AS: Which Indian content providers are you partnering with?

AMS:We would be unable to comment on private discussions with local partners.

AS:Can we also expect Netflix to produce India specific content?

AMS: We look for experienced creators with great stories to tell from all over the world. We’re already making series and films in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Italy, Mexico and the U.K., and are always on the lookout for new and compelling projects that would appeal to a global audience.

AS: The Netflix gift card service is still not activated for India. Is there a reason for the same? If not, when can we expect these services to begin.

AMS:We don't have a confirmed date for gift card availability in India at this time.

From the above Q&A session, it is abundantly clear that Netflix is not looking to expand its local language content and is purely focussed on an audience that wants global content primarily. Maybe this is what will set Netflix apart from the slew of already present streaming services in India. Users in India also need to lower their expectations of local language content as that is not Netflix’s USP. Netflix banks highly on its original productions, and with plans to expand its own portfolio, Netflix and its future is one to watch out for. Tell us what you think of the Netflix service in India in the comments section below.  

Adamya SharmaAdamya Sharma

Adamya Sharma sits among boys all day long listening to geek talk and wondering what the hell is she doing with her life.