Netflix prices will stay high in India, as it plans more and more originals

Reed Hastings is now such an influential voice in video, even when he jokes about his next 100 million customers coming from India, he is taken seriously and quoted all over the press.

The comments came as he was being interviewed at India’s Economic Times Global Business Summit and the interviewer asked flippantly how much of the $8 billion content spend which Netflix has committed to, would be spent in India and Hasting just came out with his enthusiasm for the country.

Key to Hasting’s interview was his statement of intent around India – he did not plan to drop the price of Netflix in India, just make the offering irresistible by adding more and more local Indian content, featuring higher production values and real life stories.

In India Netflix has been coming behind such OTT worthies as PCCW’s Viu, Star’s Hotstar and YuppTV and Eros Now and others, including Amazon Prime video. Rethink TV has Netflix as having little more than 300,000 paying customers in India, which is why Hastings explanation of his company’s strategy was so important.

“We are priced between 500 Rupees ($7.75) and 800 Rupees ($12.40) a month, about the price of a movie ticket.” Hastings complimented India saying that it had many wonderful stories, but complained that Bollywood, the local movie industry produced just 1% of the global box office revenue and this was because production values were too low in India and he did not want to go down that route. “Here serialized TV is bigger than movies and this is due to the production values.” He also pointed out that the price of cable had not risen in 30 years, and this wasn’t really pay TV, and contributed enormously to those poor production values. “What Netflix wants to do is turn India into a giant market but also a giant movie producer, one that exports to the rest of the world.”

On the back of his visit to India Hastings launched a slate of 3 local Indian original content series, which he said would not just play in India, but also debut exclusively to over 117 million Netflix members in 190 countries – not just to Indians living overseas, but to everyone. These series join a larger slate of original productions out of India including Sacred Games, Selection Day, and Bard of Blood.

“We are proud to continue to invest in original content in India. These three series, from the scary to the supernatural, represent the tremendous diversity that Indian storytelling holds for a global audience. We are thrilled to work with some of the world’s most talented writers and producers to bring these stories to life for India and the world,” said a Netflix statement.

These are far from Bollywood, but instead show the stark reality of how India is today, one a murder mystery focusing on how crime is rising and another dealing with visitors from another planet.

As Hastings was interviewed on stage, he joked about how not being able to find an apartment, a theme from a US piece of original content showed Indian’s how simple problems like where to live have become universal themes which translate around the world.