Is Netflix’s New Deal The Ticket To Its Success In The Indian Streaming Market?

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Reuters reported yesterday that online video streaming titan Netflix is in the process of negotiating a multi-year deal with Indian media company Network18’s joint venture with Viacom, Viacom18. It’s interesting to note that Network18 is a unit of Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Industries Limited, India’s largest multinational conglomerate.

The report cited three anonymous sources who revealed that the two giants are in the initial stages of a potential partnership in which Viacom18 would produce up-to 10 Hindi language shows exclusively for Netflix.

This partnership, if successful, would not affect Viacom18’s deals with competing streaming platforms such as Amazon Video, which has an extensive catalog of regional content, giving it a decided edge over Netflix’s current offerings for its Indian audience.

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However, it seems that both parties would prefer to keep the news undercover for the time being. When reached out to by Reuters for a comment, a Netflix spokesperson denied the possibility of any such deal. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Network18 chose not to comment on the subject.

A Grander Version of their 2019 Deal

While talk of the partnership is still private, this is not the first time the two companies have collaborated on a deal.

In 2019, Viacom18’s digital content arm, Tipping Point, produced three exclusive Hindi language titles for Netflix.

All three shows, namely – She, Jamtara – Sabka Number Aayega, and Taj Mahal 1989 – are diverse in terms of genre, and were released over a span of a few weeks in the first half of 2020. Moreover, these titles are available in international catalogs and not just limited to Netflix’s Indian library.

Netflix also holds licenses to various films owned by Viacom18. At the time of the 2019 deal, Ajit Andhare, COO of Viacom18 Studios was quoted as saying, “we have a long-term partnership with Netflix for films. This is an extension of that deal for other content.”

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Similarly, a deal of larger scale would be an extension of previous partnerships and strengthen the ties between the two behemoths.

Netflix’s Quest to Establish a Foothold in the Indian Market

Netflix’s growth in India has been hindered by Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar (which now also streams Dsiney+ content).

For one, both services became available before Netflix did. Amazon Video was launched in India in 2011 and Hotstar was launched in 2015. In terms of content, both platforms offer a library suitable for major regional audiences, driving up their demand. Star India owned Hotstar, especially, streams a plethora of Indian serials and live sports. Additionally, the services were and still remain much more affordable as compared to Netflix.

This has made for tough competition, and since its launch in 2016, while growth has taken place, Netflix has been unable to overtake the former two services.

However, with years of experience and a massive international presence on its side, the service has been able to recognize the potential challenges it faces in India and has been taking steps to tackle them.

For the time being, Netflix’s strategy to fulfill its goal of gaining 100 million subscribers in the Indian market is to feature more regional content and offer cheaper plans.

The total number of Netflix users in India is estimated to reach 10.2 million users in 2020. However, the company is struggling to maintain the YoU growth in its users base.

This strategy seems to be coming into effect slowly, but steadily. In July 2019, Netflix released a mobile-only subscription plan at Rs. 299/ month for Indian consumers, to make the service more affordable. In July 2019, it announced that it will be investing Rs. 3,000 crore in its Indian division, most of which will be used for original content production.

According to co-founder Reed Hastings, Netflix is optimistic about its future presence in the country. Partnerships with Indian studios will definitely be a step forward in expanding its current user base of 2 million Indian subscribers.

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