Netflix is spending $420 million on Indian content, CEO says

The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Netflix is plowing $420 million (30 billion rupees) this year and next to produce more local content in India, one of the biggest and most-crowded markets for the world’s largest paid streaming-service provider.

“You’ll start to see a lot of stuff hit the screen, big investment,” Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said at an event in New Delhi on Friday. “We’re really trying to invest in that becoming more Indian in the content offering.”

The Los Gatos, California-based company is jostling with other giants such as Walt Disney Co.-owned Hotstar and Amazon.com Inc. Prime for a slice of the growing market as more Indians use smartphones to view videos. The companies are offering relatively cheaper packages to lure paying subscribers in a country used to free YouTube offerings.

Hastings has said Netflix’s goal is to attract 100 million customers in India — almost 25 times its estimated subscriber base there as of this year. The world’s second-most populous country is a priority for company, which is effectively blocked in China.

Disney’s Hotstar, which is already the leader in India, will get a boost soon when the entertainment giant eventually introduces Disney+, a new streaming service it started last month in some markets.

With a market that could hit almost 850 million smartphone users by 2022, compared with about half a billion now, India is drawing all the major global players as well as a slew of local streaming firms backed by Bollywood production houses. The $500 million Indian video-streaming market could grow to 10 times that size by 2023, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group last year.

Highlighting the competition, Apple Inc. jumped into the market in September with its Apple TV+, while Walmart Inc.’s local asset, Flipkart Online Services Pvt., unveiled its plans in August to start a free Indian video streaming service.

“We got one eye to being very local and authentic and one eye to what will be shared around the world,” he said. “But that is the advantage of Netflix to be able to produce in India and share that.”

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