New Delhi: Popular online video streaming service Netflix Monday said it has formed three separate strategic partnerships with telcos Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone India and direct-to-home (DTH) television operator Videocon d2h.
The announcement was made in New Delhi by Netflix co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings, who is visiting India for the first time. The new partnerships are meant to expand distribution and make access to Netflix easier for Indians via integration through set-top boxes and prepaid mobile schemes.
The company did not reveal the details of these partnerships.
“We want it to just be easy to get to Netflix whether it’s on your TV or your mobile phone or laptop. It should really be like Netflix is available anywhere where the Internet is available,” said Hastings, 56, who said he took an early morning bike ride on the streets of old Delhi before heading to the press meet. “I’m sneaking in the tourist stuff on the side,” he quipped.
Hastings told reporters that Netflix would do more partnerships with both mobile and set top box operators to make it easier, particularly on the billing side. “As you know, online payments is something which is very rapidly emerging, credit cards has been quite small. And now, there is a lot of new alternatives coming, so we are participating in all of that,” he added.
Hastings will also travel to Mumbai during his seven-day visit to meet content creators and partners.
Hastings said after 14 months of its launch in India, it has witnessed a growth in subscribers, but did not share details. “This is one of the top 3 markets for Netflix in terms of mobile usage. We’ve had strong growth here; it’s stronger than all of the other Asian nations. It’s a larger market. In terms of investments, we are investing heavily into content,” said Hastings, adding the viewing of its shows had gone up a lot on the Reliance Jio network which launched in September last year.
He also said Netflix will open a Mumbai office, reiterating its long-term commitment to the country. Outside the US, the company has offices in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore and London.
From a consumption standpoint, Hastings said India is more movie-centric than most of Netflix’s other markets. He recently watched director Abhishek Chaubey’s controversial drugs drama Udta Punjab on the platform.
The next 10 to 20 years around the world will be a time of great change with the expansion of Internet TV, Hastings said, with Internet data costs continuing to drop. “We think Internet television over the next 10-20 years will rise like the mobile phone did over the fixed line telephone. With Internet TV, we think there will be tremendous growth in the creative sector; so for example, for creators now, Hotstar makes a bid, we say no we’ll pay more, Amazon pays more... the prices are rising and the number of projects getting done in the creative community is really expanding,” Hastings pointed out.
Both Amazon Prime Video which launched in India in December and Netflix are engaged in a turf war over local content, a priority for both streaming services.
Netflix’s first original series in the country is based on novelist Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games. “We’ve got Sacred Games and we think it’ll be very popular here in India but also around the world. We want to make that franchise a great global success like Narcos in a way,” said Hastings.
Globally, Netflix has 94 million subscribers around the world, out of which 40 million are outside of the US.