Netflix India faces the battle of the Bollywoods

While we watch the Feds and Netflix size each other up, the pan-global streamer is behaving differently in other territories. Take India for instance.

Veteran Asia screen expert Liz Shackleton picked up on an event run by Netflix India in the person of Srishti Behl Arya, the company’s director, International Original Film.

The Indian branch is operating pretty closely with the local industry, since it has funded 40 films, TV series and documentaries. It is working with substantial operations in Mumbai, while at least one project is in Tamil, a major non-Hindi language group. 

These films appeal to massive markets – there are 530m Hindi speakers, as compared with almost 100m Bengali speakers, 70m Tamils, and 260,000 English language devotees. But it only has 2.5m subscribers, giving it a total revenue of AU$163m. Those figures, current in 2019, doubled on the previous year, and Netflix has been making local content since 2017.

Netflix will go hyper-local if it sees a path to profit. 

So it is managing a rapidly growing market in its own language(s) with a distinctive domestic storytelling tradition, which goes far beyond Bollywood. 

It certainly demonstrates that Netflix will go hyper-local if it sees a path to profit. This one seems to be very popular –

It looks as if it is built on the fiscal discipline and popular cultural approach of an Australian TV serial. Which is interesting since we automatically connect Netflix and streamers in general with premium material.
Here is the 2021 slate.

Just as it has a distinctive product in India, Netflix also faces competition which we are unlikely to notice. Eros International, a 40-year-old and immensely well established Indian production and services company, runs Eros Now, among a lot of other ventures. Eros Now is a streaming company, with over 211m registered users and 36m paying subscribers. According to the website:

It offers endless entertainment hosting one of the largest movie libraries (over 12,000 digital titles), as well as premium television shows, music and music videos, unmatched in quantity and quality. Eros Now also has a deep library of short-form content, totalling over 4,400 short-form videos including trailers, original short exclusive interviews and marketing shorts. To date Eros Now has successfully premiered over 180 films in nine different languages including Hindi, English, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Telugu and Punjabi. 

It is indeed the battle of the Bollywoods. How Netflix will respond to the Hindu fundamentalist government and its urge to censor remains to be seen. The whole sector is nervous about that. 

Read: Three feminist documentaries to watch for International Women’s Day

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.