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Co-founder, chairman and CEO of the world’s leading internet TV network Netflix, Reed Hastings, talks to TOI about the revolution of India’s internet market in the last two years and how the country could turn out to be a powerhouse of high-quality media and entertainment content. Excerpts:
How has the Indian market changed for Netflix from the time you launched here?
We got lucky because, just as we launched in India, Reliance Jio was launched and its competitors lowered data rates. So, the cost of data in India has fallen like nowhere else in the world.
That has been very helpful because YouTube, Amazon, and Hotstar are all growing as it’s much less expensive. The expansion of 4G and residential broadband has been extraordinary over the last two years.
On which devices do you feel Netflix will be consumed more?
Smart TV is very big, PlayStation, laptops, tablets, and phones are very big throughout Asia. The Internet is getting faster. So, we will see more people downloading on phones and then more people will start watching on TV. TV screens will get bigger, less expensive and more spectacular.
Now, TVs have Dolby Vision technology, which makes them very bright. The evolution to make TVs more natural is ongoing. We are providing content for that, which is mastered correctly. We are working with TV makers very closely for years, so that apps open much faster and internet feels more native to the TV.
Where and when is the next big disruption waiting to happen in your industry?
It’s always hard to say in advance. We had horses as transportation for the last 5,000 years and then cars came in one generation. A big change comes after a long period of stability. You have to be flexible to adjust to it.
Our future is just to be better at global sharing to make great Japanese anime, to make great telenovelas and great Bollywood films and share them around the world.
Netflix has one of the largest production budgets globally. Do you see the same growing over the years?
We are ramping up, including in India. We are continuing to invest in writers, in production facilities. We want to have normal stories of Indian life and help share them across the world.
Will Netflix ever become a mass-market service or will it continue to remain premium?
We will remain a premium player, at least for the next couple of years, as we do the high-end shows and big productions. They are mostly in Hindi and English.
So, we are still not in regional languages and our focus is to not having ads. Having a high-end approach is good for us and it is generating great growth. Ultimately, we have to look at the very long term, but that’s after we have great success in doing spectacular content.
So, will you continue to burn cash?
I am afraid so. That’s called investment. We have been in the investment mode in India, particularly for content, for a long time. That’s okay.
What are the challenges you see for Netflix in India?
The big one is word of mouth — you want to watch a show, which your friends are watching and talk about it. Half your enjoyment is in the moment and other half is that your cousins and friends have also seen it and you compare scenes.
It’s getting to that level, at least within certain groups, and we see that in Germany, Singapore, and Argentina. We have seen that in many countries. But in India, we haven’t got to that critical mass yet.