American streaming major Netflix is betting on India as an entertainment hub for the world. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who’s on a short visit to India, told reporters on Friday that the India market witnessed the fastest growth in 2022.
India’s net paid addition in subscriber numbers was the highest in the world. ‘’We had a very tough start in 2022 and a very strong end,’’ Sarandos said while elaborating on the three benchmarks for success as engagement, revenue and profit. The viewing engagement in India grew by 30 per cent and revenue by 25 per cent in 2022. Content like RRR and Gangubai—among the best foreign language feature for Netflix—pushed the India success story, executives said.
Sarandos, who along with Greg Peters, also co-CEO, runs the show at Netflix after Reed Hastings stepped down as the CEO last month, is clear on his India focus. To a question on whether Netflix would consider documentaries or series around Indian political personalities or issues in the backdrop of the BBC controversy, Sarandos said: ‘’We are here to entertain. That’s not to say you cannot have political stories that don’t entertain. We have told stories in this space before but it must be entertaining.’’ He added that Netflix has had documentaries that have been controversial but ‘’our goal is to entertain, not to fight or enrage the government or the people of the country.’’
On the regulatory environment and issues such as content cuts, Sarandos said it was not more than anywhere else in the world. ‘’We are respectful of local law where we operate’’.
It’s actually films like RRR and Gangubai that excites Netflix and its bosses about India. Sarandos agreed RRR was a trigger moment for the company. According to numbers given out by the company, superhit film RRR drew over 73 million hours of viewing within first four weeks of its release on Netflix. Gangubai clocked over 50 million hours in the first six weeks of its release. Darlings was at over 35 million hours in the first month of its release.
These viewing numbers explain the significance of the India market for Netflix, which calls the potential for streaming ‘’terrific’’. After a drop in subscriber numbers, India has gained momentum. ‘’This year was our most successful in India in terms of growth,’’ Sarandos said. Explaining Netflix’ success in the India market against some others in the space, Sarandos said, ‘’unlike many companies in California, we manage India in India.’’
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On the operational aspects, Netflix is not looking at India as an advertising market yet. There’s no plan for 2023 on that. So far, only 12 markets have rolled out advertising-driven model along with the existing subscription format. While globally Netflix is actively trying to convert the shared password model to real accounts to generate revenue, in India, the company is ‘’nudging’’ people towards that. ‘’We are trying to send out a message that personalisation is better when you are not sharing the password,’’ Sarandos said.
India content budget, though Netflix didn’t give out the figure, could increase this year going by the growth figures. Globally, the content budget of Netflix is at an estimated $17 billion and there’s no plan to cut it unlike some of its competition.
In the midst of all the tech slowdown and downsizing, Netflix executives said the India business has not been hit. There are around 250 employees in the Indian operations of Netflix, with Delhi and Mumbai being the core centres.
A profitable company, Netflix believes its India numbers are sustainable and that it indeed is India’s decade, to repeat many others. Indian culture is being exported to other parts of the world through movies and series revolving around the local landscape, the biggest streaming services company believes.