Trying to become more Indian in content offering: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings
Netflix founder and Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said on Friday the company had invested Rs 3,000 crore in creating Indian content for the world in 2019-20, thus placing a big bet on the India market.

The online streaming platform, known for its shows such as Sacred Games, Leila, and Bard of Blood in India, is putting more original Indian content on the platform.

On a short visit to India, Hasting spoke at a media event in the morning and addressed a select gathering in the evening in New Delhi. 

He said Indian shows like Sacred Games, Little Things, Delhi Crime, and the animated series Mighty Little Bheem had found audiences across the world, and the company expected to follow a model similar to how it produced content in the US, UK, and Spain — three of its most significant markets.

The firm recently ran into trouble with governments because of the content it produces. This year, it had to take down an episode of “Patriot Act” in Saudi Arabia because the government objected to its content.

“Those are always tough decisions...driven by local law. What’s been great with the Indian government is that it hasn’t imposed broadcast standards. Broadcast has a lot of limits on what can be shown. There has been a lot of controversy over the past year on whether those standards should be applied,” Hastings said.

He said with the Internet a user chose individual shows, and Netflix labelled all its content with age appropriateness, violent or disturbing content, and other things.

Last year, Netflix faced widespread protests in Brazil over its show “O Mecanismo”. Earlier this year, it saw similar protests, particularly from right-wing organisations over “Sacred Games” and “Leila”. 

The Indian government has been mulling over a separate way to regulate digital content, but nothing has been finalised yet.

There is a self-regulation code that is currently followed by some online streaming content providers, and Netflix is also a signatory to that.

“You can never take freedom for granted,” he said. 

“The advantage of the Indian government doing that (not having a digital code) is that there is more investment. The reason we are excited about this Rs 3,000 crore investment is because of the stable regulatory environment,” he added.  

He earlier said a lot more Indian content is being produced out of the country, and will begin rolling out soon. 

Talking about his favourite shows on Netflix, Hastings said he watches “The Crown,” a historical drama based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, “Bojack Horseman,” which is an adult animated tongue-in-cheek comedy, and the ““Kominsky Method” because it’s about old people”. 

The biggest competitor to the service, he added was television programming, followed by YouTube and other streaming services, and even viedogaming which takes up a big chuck of time of young viewers. 

Netflix, which began its Indian content foray with a focus on Indian English, is now expanding the ambit to more local languages like Tamil and Telugu.  

Hastings said the company was very pleased with its India-first innovations, including its Rs 199 basic plan and letting users download content for watching later. 

He did not disclose how many subscribers it had added post announcing the Rs 199 plan earlier this year, but said he was “very pleased” with the pricing which was getting it more subscribers and hence more revenue. 

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