“So what are you watching on Netflix?” This has become a conversation starter for bingers across the world, including in India, which says a lot about the growing influence of the streaming giant globally.
Apart from re-writing the rulebook for a successful business model, the streaming service is constantly revamping its content library, creating a ripple effect in the market.
When Netflix came into existence in 1997, thanks to Reed Hastings and software executive Marc Randolph, the intention was to offer online movie rentals.
Today, it has spread its network in over 190 countries through over 150 million paid memberships.
The Netflix strategy is to revisit immensely popular shows as they did with “Stranger Things”, “Queer Eye”, “Sacred Games”, “Narcos”, “The Crown”, “Glow”, “Mindhunters”, and “13 Reasons Why”.
Another strategy that is currently influencing most other home entertainment platforms is Netflix’s initiative to bring A-list star power like Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Ryan Reynolds into the original content that streams right into your homes.
They have successfully replicated the strategy in India, too. Netflix is now the playing field for many big-ticket Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anushka Sharma and Emraan Hashmi.
While Saif and Nawazuddin return in “Sacred Games 2”, SRK produces the spy thriller series “Bard Of Blood” starring Emraan Hashmi, and Anushka Sharma produces the political drama “Mai”.
Netflix knows that in star-crazy India, even if the names of SRK and Anushka are attached as producers, it could trigger off a revenue haul worth a few crores more.
“The thing about Netflix is that we don’t believe in being judgmental to the taste of any of our subscribers,” Srishti Behl Arya, director, International Originals, at Netflix India, told IANS.
“We want to make sure that whatever is their taste, viewers will find it at Netflix. That is what we have been doing across the globe, with series and films. We hope to bring that narrative to the local Indian market as well. Just like we are talk of global content here, they should be talking about Indian content,” she added.
This year, the streaming service is expected to spend $15 billion on content, and India is big on their radar.
“We are seeing a nice, steady increase in engagement with Indian viewers that we think we can build on,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said on a call with analysts, adding: “Growth in India is a marathon. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Essentially, Netflix is changing viewing habits in India, like the rest of the world, by providing unlimited original entertainment for every taste and viewership profile.
Upcoming content as diverse as “Bard of Blood”, “Baahubali: The Rise Of Sivagami”, “Bulbul”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Bombay Begums”, “Betaal”, “Messy”, “Masaba Masaba”, “Ghost Stories”, “Class of ’83” and “Mrs. Serial Killer” testify that fact.
They have even unveiled a mobile subscription plan for India at a mere Rs 199 per month.
“We try to tell the best stories we can. There are so many streaming services, but if you think about how many networks there are on cable in India, there are way more than 34. I think there’s a lot of room to do different kinds of stories,” said Hastings.
Let’s take a note that there is a growing market for other over-the-top or OTT platforms, too, like Amazon Prime, Hotstar, MX Player, Voot, Zee5, ALTBalaji or Sony Liv in India.
Netflix isn’t bothered about competition. “It’s going to be a very exciting and competitive market. I am very pleased with our performance there,” Hastings said at an event in March.
The growing popularity of Netflix, in India particularly, has opened up options for content creators, too.
Kirti Kulhari, who will be seen in “Bard of Blood”, feels they have widened the reach of content, which is a “big revolution”.
“Netflix is the first one to start doing this. The diversity (and) the complexity of the subjects that they deal with (are impressive). They are encouraging different countries to produce content locally with a very global universal appeal. They have created healthy competition. Everyone has upped the game,” Kirti told IANS.
“Delhi Crime” star Rasika Duggal feels “the digital space is about pushing the boundaries and breaking formula and with each of their shows, and Netflix has stayed true to that”.
“Beecham House” actress Shriya Pilgaonkar added: “From an actor’s perspective, as well as from a viewer’s, Netflix has been at the forefront of showcasing diverse content across genres, which is encouraging for a lot of storytellers out there, and is giving a much-needed boost to original content.”
It is clear that Netflix will continue breaking the norms, decoding the formula of success, eschewing the traditional ratings system and creating binge-worthy entertainment.
So, Netflix and chill.