Netflix announces new slate for India

FILE - The Netflix logo is displayed on the company's website, Feb. 2, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (AP)
FILE - The Netflix logo is displayed on the company's website, Feb. 2, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (AP)

Summary

  • The idea is to progressively get broader in terms of the audience the platform caters to, Monika Shergill, vice-president, content at Netflix India, said

New Delhi: American streaming platform Netflix has announced a new slate—a set of new shows and movies—for India, most of which will be rolled out this year, with more titles likely to be added. 

The latest announcements include primarily Hindi language movies and shows, such as Maharaj to be produced by Yash Raj Films starring actor Aamir Khan’s son Junaid; Taapsee Pannu-starrer Phir Ayee Haseen Dillruba; Neeraj Pandey directorial Sikander Ka Muqaddar; IC 814: The Kandahar Hijack to be directed by Anubhav Sinha; besides returning seasons of shows like Kota Factory, Mismatched and Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein.

The idea is to progressively get broader in terms of the audience the platform caters to, Monika Shergill, vice-president, content at Netflix India said in an interview. Upcoming titles like Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, a period drama created by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and The Great Indian Kapil Show featuring comic Kapil Sharma and his team will complement this strategy of speaking to audiences across the spectrum and ensure the service continues to work on shedding its niche and upmarket tag.

The strategy follows 18-60% price cuts rolled out in December 2021. Netflix’s mobile-only plan, earlier priced at 199 per month, has since cost 149. The basic plan that allows access to all content on one device is priced at 199 versus 499 earlier.

“2023 has been our most successful year till date in terms of growth of engagement, and our subscriber base is accelerating year-on-year," Shergill said. “We are on a very strong growth trajectory and continued momentum, which is different from what is happening with other services in the streaming world."

Netflix's Indian content is getting popular globally, too. Last year, in 49 out of 52 weeks, Indian titles Mission Majnu, Kathal and The Railway Men trended for several weeks individually on Netflix's top 10 global weekly lists of non-English titles. 

Media analysts estimate Netflix India’s subscriber base to be between 8 million and 10 million, a significant increase from the 5 million it commanded before the price slashes. While that is a huge jump, it is a fact that for most OTTs, more than 60% subscriptions comes from partnerships with telecom operators such as Airtel and Jio, and other aggregators such as Tata Play. 

Besides, experts point out that a majority of Netflix's viewer base continues to return to the platform for tentpole international content, and local originals are yet to make a mark.

“The latest strategy of acquiring big films post theatrical release is a risky one, because big studios and stars will not make films to meet Netflix’s demand," the content head of a studio pointed out on condition of anonymity. “2024 is especially set to be a lean year with the likes of Shah Rukh, Salman and Ranbir unlikely to have a release." 

The OTT platform premiered a host of large-scale Bollywood and southern language films such as Jawan, Animal and Leo over the past few months, with entertainment industry experts estimating acquisition costs to have touched upwards of 100 crore.

Shergill, though, emphasized that the company prioritizes originals as opposed to the perception that the streaming platform has begun to invest aggressively in acquisition of big-star theatrical films. “At the heart and centre of what we do at Netflix is to back original stories and voices. The number of originals currently being shot across the country for Netflix India is higher than any other service," Shergill said, even while declining to disclose an investment figure for India. “They are a very important part of our brand and long-term success as a company."

To be sure, video streaming platforms are slowing investments in the country after an initial rush of bullish spending as they looked to consolidate their presence in India. By 2022 itself, spending had dipped by 50% as parent companies of foreign platforms reeled from the global downturn with subscriber addition in India remaining tepid.

“From a cost point of view, there is a certain rationalization happening across the board, as it should; everything comes to a balance," she said. “(But) we don’t want to look at things from a cost aperture, we want to program for many different tastes. Right-sizing is our responsibility too, like everybody else’s, but we are investing a lot into the market and seeing great returns in terms of revenue, growth and profit," she added.

In FY23, Netflix India's revenue grew 24% year-on-year to   2,214 crore, and net profit rose 75% to 35 crore, as per data source from the Registrar of Companies.

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