Netflix spreads its net Bharat-wide with Hindi, vernacular content

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Published: September 29, 2019 12:14 AM

To cater to the mass segment, the OTT player is ramping up its palette of regional content. Shergill says a robust content licensing both in Hindi and other regional languages is in the pipeline.

Ajay Gupta, partner at AT Kearney, points out that going mass for Netflix will be challenging as the mass segment is still averse to pay for content, more so as a lot of free content is already available.

Netflix, so far catering to premium customers, is looking to woo the mass market in India. Fueled by cheap data prices, about 550 million consumers are estimated to take to online video viewing by FY2023, as per a recent KPMG-Eros Now report, making it too lucrative a market to miss out on. At present, Netflix’s traffic is heavily skewed towards the metros, followed by tier-two cities. An India-specific, cheap mobile-only plan launched by the Los Gatos-based firm in July has, however, broadened the platform’s reach, claims Monika Shergill, director, international originals, at Netflix India.

“In the long run, we want to go beyond tier-two cities because I think everybody should enjoy premium story telling. There is no one or the other that we want to exclusively cater to. I strongly believe that it is the stories and the content we create that will drive people and encourage them to join in, rather than us pushing and targeting,” Shergill told FE.

To cater to the mass segment, the OTT player is ramping up its palette of regional content. Shergill says a robust content licensing both in Hindi and other regional languages is in the pipeline. Netflix currently has a library comprising over 10 regional languages (including Hindi). Big series which are already being dubbed in regional languages to give access to broader audience across the country is adding up to the slate, she adds.

The company’s spy-thriller Bard of Blood that started streaming on September 27 is meant for a “very, very broad audience”, says Shergill. Produced by Shahrukh Khan-owned Red Chillies Entertainment, the series promises to have a “full commercial tone” akin to a Bollywood potboiler. Shot in various locales and steeped in action and special effects, the series is Netflix’s next huge big-screen story after Sacred Games, says Shergill. “It is as big or better than even cinema in that sense,” she adds. Asked on the content cost, she says: “I can just assure that whatever the story required, we bid for it.”

Sacred Games with a top-notch cast and stirring plot is estimated to have cost over Rs 10 crore per episode, said an analyst. “It is done for a few flagship shows. An average show might cost about Rs 3.5 crore per episode or lower,” the analyst said. Analysts at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimate Netflix to have invested around $75 million on India original content in 2017, albeit lower than the $300 million invested by Hotstar.

Hotstar is the top app in terms of downloads and monthly active users (MAU), according to a FICCI-EY report released in December 2018. It had 300 million MAUs in June 2019, a RedSeer Consulting report showed.

Experts say players looking for mass adoption need to scale up like Hotstar. Since Hotstar has live cricket, customer acquisition becomes easier. Ajay Gupta, partner at AT Kearney, points out that going mass for Netflix will be challenging as the mass segment is still averse to pay for content, more so as a lot of free content is already available.

To up its game, the platform has to churn out compelling vernacular content, bring affordable plans and create simplicity of access and use, Gupta adds. Netflix claims to have around 151 million subscribers globally. According to research firm Media Partners Asia, the firm has about a million subscribers in India.

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