Two years after its near-global expansion, Netflix now has over 117 million subscribers, most of them in countries other than the US. While India is probably not a significant contributor to this growth — the company only had 2–3 lakh Indian subscribers one year in — international markets have been where Netflix has been growing the fastest. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, said in an earnings call, “When we compare [our subscriber growth] to Latin America several years ago, we’re very pleased with the progress that we’re making through India, through Southeast Asia, and Japan.”
“Hotstar’s a great competitor, collaborator”
Last year, Disney bought most of 21st Century Fox, and therefore Star India too. The competitive situation with Star India’s Hotstar, Hastings said, wouldn’t change much. “YouTube gets the most streaming in India, but Hotstar gets the second most. So it’s not a wildly different landscape. So that wouldn’t particularly change our view in India. Hotstar’s a great competitor, and sometimes collaborator now, and I’m sure they would continue to be under Disney.”
Hotstar’s paywalled Premium service anyway had most Disney titles in its catalogue, thanks to a deal between the two companies almost a year before Fox was acquired by Disney.
Surviving price increases
Most of the international growth came as Netflix started producing larger originals outside the US like the German series Dark. So much so, that price increases across the world didn’t really impact Netflix. In the EU and Australia, Netflix raised prices by roughly a euro, around ₹100. In the US, its mid-tier plan underwent a dollar increase too.
Still, year-over-year, the quarterly additions have grown consistently. (Of course, Netflix probably won’t dare hike prices in India, even though it’s been burdened with 18% GST now, a shock that it has for the moment chosen to absorb.)
India, where Netflix has operated for two years now, hasn’t had a single original film or series come out yet. Sacred Games, which stars Saif Ali Khan, is Netflix’s flagship original in India, which it hopes will see Narcos-like resonation globally. The series was announced in 2016, and remains in production to date. Love Per Square Foot, a Ronnie Screwvala production, will be Netflix’s first original title from India, and will come out in February. Its other originals, Again and Selection Day, are still in pre-production.
The company has mostly been cutting deals with existing producers for content, most notably Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies production house’s catalogue. More recently, the company silently bought multiple films from Aamir Khan Productions, including Delhi Belly, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and Lagaan.