Netflix’s next 100-m users from India: Reed Hastings, Chairman, Netflix

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NEW DELHI: Netflix sees a potential of adding 100 million customers in India, Reed Hastings, the chairman of the online streaming company, said at the ET Global Business Summit on Friday. “It definitely helps to have confidence on the growth of the Internet. Even we couldn’t predict the last two years of Indian Internet growth,” said Hastings in a panel discussion titled ‘Future of Entertainment’.

The growth in Indian Internet market was driven by the launch of Reliance Industries’ Jio in the middle of 2016, which led to a rapid fall in cost of data across top telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. Netflix launched its India operations in January 2016 and has been able to capture significant market share here, with a focus on the top 10-20 million internet consumers. “It’s the most phenomenal example anywhere in the world of low Internet costs, expansion of 4G. We didn’t see that coming and we just got lucky on that one,” said Hastings in the panel discussion moderated by Ronnie Screwvala, founder of Upgrad and UTV Motion Pictures.

Hastings said that for India to become a $10-trillion economy, the key will be to avoid wars. And that’s where players like Netflix come in, whose content helps different countries understand cultures. “If you look over 1,000 years, whenever there is a war, there is a big setback. One part of that is communities understanding each other and the other part is entertainment,” said the 57-yearold Stanford computer science post graduate. Hastings took the example of Love Per Square Foot, a recent original movie produced out of India. He said while the movie has done well in India, it has also been doing well in the US, the UK and Mexico. Hastings said he expects the next level of growth to come from international markets, where countries like India will have a significant contribution. “The next 100 million is from India. We are at 120 million across the world,” he said.

Netflix also announced three Indian original productions — Ghoul, Leila and Crocodile — besides four productions already under work which include Sacred Games, Selection Day, Again, and Bard of Blood.

He said that Netflix costs Rs 500-800 a month in India, which is more than cable TV subscription cost, but this is because pay TV cost in the country is subsidised by ads, while Netflix is an ad-free network.

“It’s about what a movie ticket would cost. We would like consumers to compare it with that (movie ticket) than what they pay for cable TV,” said Hastings. Netflix has 117.5 million subscribers in over 190 countries who consume over 140 million hours of TV shows and movies per day. To put the number of subscribers in context, there are about 94 million pay TV subscribers in the US and 155 million in India.

In 2017, the company was able to grow its streaming revenue by 36% to over $11.6 billion, adding 24 million new memberships. Netflix also achieve d full-year positive international contribution profit for the first time and more than doubled its global operating income. On the back of this growth, the company has seen its share price double in the last 12 months, helping it reach a market capitalisation of $120 billion.



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