Home >Industry >Media >Netflix bets on stories with local voice but global appeal

Los Angeles: If you thought India’s love for Netflix Originals was limited to the much acclaimed action drama Sacred Games, its first locally produced original released last year, you’re mistaken.

The American streaming service says India is one of the markets that has taken to content from across borders, in diverse languages and genres, like British comedy drama Sex Education, South Korean zombie tale Kingdom and psychological thriller Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Indian originals such as Lust Stories and Sacred Games have travelled abroad, Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings said, adding that he’s also optimistic about upcoming drama Delhi Crime. Spanish web series Elite, Turkish drama series The Protector and German science fiction thriller Dark are some of Netflix’s other crossover success stories across markets.

To be sure, finding stories that resonate with audiences globally with an inherent authentic local voice is at the heart of Netflix’s strategy in a war that it fights with nearly 30 streaming devices, including American rivals and local players in India alone.

For example, the video-on-demand service was pleasantly surprised when Sex Education drew viewers in France, Portugal and Thailand apart from India; Kingdom across Asia and Russia; and Bandersnatch in South Africa, Germany and Spain, besides India.

“Of course, the production piece begins with finding a great storyteller, but there is also a great incremental opportunity in bringing those stories to global audiences and we’re constantly investing in those relationships," said Greg Peters, chief product officer (CPO), Netflix.

Peters was speaking at the Netflix Labs Day 2019, a global media outreach event in Los Angeles.

While it all stems from finding specific authentic stories that can first be embraced by audiences in their home territory and then translate into broader successes, Peter said the company was constantly looking at product innovations to enhance appeal.

“In the last one year, we have updated our navigation facilities, allowed for smart downloads and are working with device partners to ensure high sound and visual quality like 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos," Greg Peters added.

The idea is to throw content suggestions that a viewer would not ordinarily watch and hence prevent them from staying in a content bubble while at the same time allow high-quality viewing even as internet bandwidths differ in various countries.

Then comes subtitling, dubbing and translating, a crucial part of global content travel given that 60% of Netflix’s audience base comes from outside the US, a statistic that offers tremendous opportunity. From seven languages for its Norwegian-American series Lilyhammer in 2012, Netflix managed 24 versions for its 2018 fantasy adventure The Christmas Chronicles.

“It’s not about where you are or what you do anymore. Stories bring us closer and now that Netflix as a service is available worldwide, the company wants to bring these stories to everyone," said Debra Chinn, director, international dubbing, Netflix.

The internet allows the power of personalization, given that one Netflix account may be used at times by five people.

“It allows us to create content for everyone and we want to throw up a world of stories for people," said Todd Yellin, vice-president of product, Netflix.

The writer is in Los Angeles at the invitation of Netflix.

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