Video streaming platform Netflix is seeking to create “diverse” and “appealing” content based out of India and will have 22 such movies by the end of next year. The over-the-top (OTT) service provider has already released eight, and the rest 14 will be out over the next 18 months, starting with Abhay Deol-starrer Chopstick at the end of this month. This is in addition to a slew of original shows and series lined up from India.
Netflix, which has been in India since January 2016, has collected data points that suggest the market has a huge appetite for films. As a percentage of the overall time spent on Netflix, film viewing in India is the highest and 70 per cent of its subscribers see at least one film in a week, it says.
Srishti Behl Arya, director - international original film, India, Netflix, said the focus was to create as diverse and appealing content based out of India as possible. For this, the company was working with various Indian creators across genres to create a library of original films that could be served to its global audience, she added.
Netflix’s content partners across various projects include Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Farah Khan, and Anurag Kashyap, among others. Media reports suggest that the company could be spending around $100 million on originals from India over the next two years.
“We want to make sure that Netflix has something for everyone. Diversity of content is the key. India is a diverse market and it is important to have good quality content that can be enjoyed by various kinds of viewers. Of course, it is important to stay true to the concept and tell the best stories in the best way possible. In that, we have been lucky to have collaborated with some of the best creators,” Arya said.
Arya and her team use a combination of data, experience, and intuition to decide the content that gets the green light for production. While data helps the team identify the under-served genres, their experience with content creation helps identify the scripts with potential.
So far, the platform has released eight original films from India. Among these, Lust Stories, which is a compilation of four stories each directed by a different director, has set the record for the most-watched original in percentage terms in any individual market in its first month. Other titles include Love Per Square Foot, produced by Ronnie Screwvala, and Rajma Chawal, starring Rishi Kapoor.
The focus on providing diversity also shapes Netflix’s content acquisition strategy in India. While there are platforms that have signed slate deals with local studios, Netflix believes in taking one project at a time. As Arya explains, taking a call on a project basis allows for flexibility, both for the platform and creator partners. This also means that while it will produce/co-produce film titles based out of India, it is also open to acquiring streaming rights of a film that was released in theatres.
Competitors like Amazon Prime Video have gone all out to acquire the rights to theatrical projects of multiple Indian studios, including Excel Entertainment, Dharma Productions, and T-Series. Netflix has acquired more indie projects so far, along with some big titles like the Baahubali series. It also has access to the Red Chilies library of films through its content production deal with the Shah Rukh- and Gauri Khan-promoted content production and visual effects studio.
Being a digital platform, Netflix also sees different consumption patterns when it comes to films. For example, Sonam Kapoor-starrer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga received a lukewarm response at the theatres. However, on Netflix, the response has been encouraging.
As a percentage of overall time spent on Netflix, film viewing in India is the highest in any country
70% Netflix members in India watch at least one film a week
The number of films watched per month/per member has grown Rs 50% since last year
Lust Stories was our largest-watched original in percentage terms in any individual market in its first month.