Netflix on India binge, to spend ₹3,000 cr

  • Founder and CEO Reed Hastings said India will see unrivalled investment from both foreign and local streaming companies in the coming years
  • At HTLS 2019, Hastings said Netflix plans to push its mobile subscription plan, the first such option in the world

Lata Jha
Updated6 Dec 2019
In India, Hastings’ video-on-demand platform has announced around 24 feature films and 16 web series (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
In India, Hastings’ video-on-demand platform has announced around 24 feature films and 16 web series (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

New Delhi: Having strengthened its play in India since its launch close to four years ago, US streaming platform Netflix is looking to spend 3,000 crore in 2019 and 2020 to create content for the country, chief executive and founder Reed Hastings said.

“We are only getting started here and the centrepiece of our story is content,” Hastings told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday. The video streaming service says it has 160 million subscribers globally, but it hasn’t given out its Indian numbers yet.

Hastings said Netflix has nearly 100 employees at its Mumbai office, across marketing and support teams, and another 1,000 developing content in various capacities. It is looking to staff-up constantly.

In India, Hastings’ video-on-demand platform has announced around 24 feature films and 16 web series.

These are in addition to a slew of licenced content it has been picking up—its partnerships include Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment and Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment.

Coming up immediately on the service are horror anthology Ghost Stories, a sequel to last year’s Lust Stories, Ajay Devgn’s Tribhanga starring Kajol, Dibakar Banerjee’s Freedom and Atul Sabharwal’s Class of ’83, produced by Red Chillies.

Hastings added that India will see unrivalled investment in the coming years from both foreign players— such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and new entrants including Disney+ and Apple TV+—as well as local entities like Hotstar. This will lead to a lot more content catering to all needs and tastes, with binge-watching Indians becoming used to the idea of regularly checking streaming services for their latest offerings.

“Our goal is to be better than anybody else at pleasing audiences and earning viewing from them,” Hastings said.

The big successes from India this year have been the third season of romantic comedy Little Things, crime drama Delhi Crime and animation series Mighty Little Bheem, Hastings said. In fact, about 27 million homes outside India have watched Mighty Little Bheem.

Of late, the Netflix game plan in India has been focused on creating local content with mainstream movie names and penetrating mass centres and small towns.

This July, the American streaming giant introduced a mobile-only subscription plan at 199 a month in India, and says it’s been getting good results from the new offering.

Hastings said the company plans to aggressively push the plan, the first mobile-specific option anywhere in the world.

Hastings also reiterated the need for over-the-top streaming (OTT) platforms to adopt a self-regulation model—something the ministry of information and broadcasting mentioned earlier last month.

Shows on Netflix, such as Leila, have become controversial for their “radical” plot lines.

“We will comply with local laws and regulations in whichever culture we operate in. Self-regulation seems like a pragmatic middle ground,” Hastings said.

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