Online, film and TV producers share their views on entry of Netflix in India

Jan 08, 2016, 08:38 IST | Anirban Das

Will the entry of the giant entity Netflix into the Indian market topple the applecart for current producers who have made a move into the digital space? Or is it a case of the more the merrier?

Social media went into a tizzy yesterday as news trickled in about top video streaming service Netflix finally reaching India, which has seen an exponential growth of digital medium over the last couple of years. Groups such as All India Bakchod (AIB), The Viral Fever (TVF) and East India Comedy (EIC) to name a few have garnered appreciation for their online content and have found a loyal following for their web shows. And with Netflix in the competition now, online content producers believe that it will only help them expand their reach.

A still from 'Daredevil'
A still from 'Daredevil'

AIB's Rohan Joshi says: "There are many talents in India and they can collaborate with the new property to showcase their potential and reach out to a wider audience." Sorabh Pant of EIC asserts that the consumption of online content will possibly grow manifold be it through Netflix or Hotstar or any other existing platform.

Orange Is The New Black
A still from 'Orange Is The New Black'

Ashish Patil, business and creative Head of Yash Raj Films claims that joining hands with Netflix has led to better prospects. "We have been working with Netflix as partners since years. In fact, not just YRF, but specifically Y-Films content has been hosted on their platform for several years now. Smaller films like 'Mere Dad Ki Maruti', 'Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge' etc gets a wider international platform/ reach, thanks to them. So we see it as an opportunity to reach out to more people. Hopefully with Netflix, monetisation will also become simpler," he adds.

Hot Girls Wanted
A still from 'Hot Girls Wanted'

Competition? Yes!
With more and more online platforms attracting people to watch content online, television producer JD Majethia accepts that these platforms are direct competition for small screen shows. "India's youth is finding fresh concepts and content on the internet. So, many are following digital shows more than television shows. TV shows will have to create better content and cannot avoid the fact that the introduction of popular properties like Netflix can affect viewership," he explains.

A still from 'Making A Murderer'
A still from 'Making A Murderer'

For online content producers, the competition is progressive. "It will challenge online programme creators to come up with better content. This will only help the digital platform grow and audience will also have better options," adds Joshi.

Sorabh believes that the online show producers will grow with competition. He says, "I think Netflix, Hotstar and Eros Now will only thrive to grow. I am sure their programming will be different and they will offer a wide range of entertainment to the audience."

TV show The Good Wife is available on Netflix
TV show 'The Good Wife' is available on Netflix

Competition? Nah!
Not everyone is willing to view Netflix as a threat. TV producer Sumeet Hukamchand Mittal says while he is aware that several youngsters in India follow online content, it does not take away the fact that TV shows caters to a different audience segment. "People who are hooked to TV shows do not really access internet for entertainment. So, that avoids direct competition. Having said that, I would like to add that Netflix is a popular brand and will attract a big audience on the internet than it did earlier," he adds.

Also part of the movie library are (above) comedy TV series Grace and Frankie
Also part of the movie library are comedy TV series 'Grace and Frankie'

A senior official of Hotstar requesting anonymity points out another reason why Netflix is not a competition for them, at least at the moment: "Right now the content that Netflix has is for a niche audience and it has become even more niche because it is a subscription model. Therefore, it is not direct competition for local properties. In the long run when they start developing content for the Indian audience, it will gain more importance," he says.

The Butterfly Effect (2004)
'The Butterfly Effect' (2004)

Not a big-bang entry
Netflix has an impressive English content library, both leased and original, but in the Indian context, the licensed content is limited while there is no original content yet and Crucial sports and regional content pieces are missing from its current portfolio, argues Gaurav Gandhi, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures. "Plus, the Indian cable TV market has one of the lowest ARPUs (average revenue per user) worldwide. Netflix's basic subscription plan is at par with the premium cable/ DTH packs. Combined with high data costs in India, this global advantage looks difficult to adapt to the Indian market. Then there is the delivery mechanism play. Globally Netflix content is viewed primarily through larger screens over broadband connections. The OTT explosion in India is happening primarily on the smaller mobile screens.

Mobile network penetration is higher (and increasingly so) than broadband penetration. So, the advantages that helped Netflix explode in the global market seem to be somewhat toned down in the Indian context," he says.

Wannabes rejoice
Bollywood's strugglers will have another window of opportunity opening for them. "Netflix is a huge brand and new talents will be willing to associate with it to create content. But then any talent cannot take the platform lightly. It only supports good content and not any run-of-the-mill concept. Therefore, one has to be talented enough to explore and utilise the medium," says film writer Kapil Chopra.

Filmmaker Onir, too, is willing to team up with digital content producers. "It is difficult to sell a fresh and unique concept in Bollywood. I am looking forward to the avenue and would like to join hands with them," he states.

Interestingly, TV show writer and producer Atish Kapadia candidly admits that most TV programmes are unrelatable and digital is the way forward. "I do not relate to many of the TV fictions. Now that I see many properties coming up online, it is like a new hope for me to be able to showcase my work," he says.

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