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Netflix sees India as a bright spot, plans to ‘double down’ on content investment

The online streaming giant will increase its interactive storytelling content in India. The decision has been taken on the back of the success of its interactive films such as 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'

Todd Yellen

Facing tough competition from homegrown players such Hotstar and international competitor Amazon Prime, global video streaming giant Netflix has decided to double down its investment on content in India.

Speaking at FICCI Frames on Tuesday, Todd Yellen, VP of products, Netflix, shared the company’s strategy to grow in the Indian market.

Netflix, which was launched in India in 2013, believes the market of today can’t sustain just on innovation but it needs to offer a mixture of technology and entertainment, keeping content at the forefront. The platform is planning to double down on the investments on the original content in India. They are aiming to focus more on the interactive storytelling, allowing viewers to participate and decide the future of the characters.

The decision to launch more interactive storytelling was taken on the back of the success of its interactive films 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.' Following a strong response from the Indian market, Yellin said that the company was planning to release more such films across multiple genres, including comedy and romance.

“In December, we did an experimentation with Black Mirror and it was a huge success. We wanted to try interactive storytelling and offer viewers the chance to decide what the character will do next. Netflix’s DNA is a double helix of entertainment and technology right from the beginning. It helps us to understand how to leverage technology to keep on evolving storytelling to make it better. However, not every experiment is successful we have seen our share of failures. At Netflix we believe that unless you are not dropped flat on your face, you are not trying hard enough,” he said.

Yellin also believes that the double helix of content and technology is what helps Netflix stand out of the competition. “But, the content is not subservient to the technology, it just helps us to tell our story better,” he said.

The OTT platform also focuses on offering seamless experience and encourages consumer to try out new things through their search and recommendation engine. However, Yellin points out that Netflix believes that internet is for everyone and hence the recommendations are mainly done on the basis of state, instead of age or gender.

When it comes to recommendation, Yellin states that players do a mistake of pigeon-holing its viewers in a certain genre. “If a person watches a comedy or a romantic film, once, next day he/she receives recommendations of all rom-coms. At Netflix we avoid doing that and offer different rows of recommendation, which features different genres. We want to cater to our audience taste as well as introduce them to new content. It is how we learn the likes of our consumers,” the VP said.

Last year, Netflix witnessed a massive success in India with its original series Sacred Games. However, Yellin said that two-thirds of the viewership for ‘Sacred Games’ came from outside India. This has helped the platform to understand increasing the need of dubbed content as people are now eager to consume global content.

The VP said, “Dubbing along with subtitles plays an important role. People no longer see a particular show like Sacred Games as Indian show but they view it as a riveting drama about corrupt police and someone solving a crime and being a page turner of a series. While there are some great talent in India and California, there are good filmmakers in different parts of India, in Sweden, South Africa and Brazil. People should not be deprived of content as it comes from another country.”

The ‘Umbrella Academy’, which was released six weeks ago, was available in more than 25 languages. The platform is planning to increase the number of languages from 25 to 30, in the future.

Yellin also shared that according to the recent research of Indian market, they found that the majority of consumption is taking place through the mobile phones. “Though there are smart TVs, people still prefer to watch on mobile phones as it is more personal. India has a higher per cent of mobile streaming compared to the US,” he said.

Yellin also highlighted the fact that it is important to be patient when it comes to offering content to the viewers. “There is no set time frame on when a show will gain traction, hence we need to give it a certain time period to pick up. There are times when people watch show after a year, hence it is necessary to focus on long-lived storytelling,” he said.

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