What were your expectations when you launched Netflix in India?
We launched Netflix in India in January 2016 and we’ve been delighted to see how quickly creators and consumers have embraced everything our service has to offer. Netflix wants to be the home for the most diverse and entertaining stories in India. In 2019 and 2020, Netflix will invest INR 3000 crore in India. So far, we have announced more than 60 productions and have released more than 40 films and series, in addition to stand up specials like Ladies Up, documentaries like Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians, and kids content like Mighty Little Bheem.
The pandemic must have added many more viewers.
The current environment created some near term opportunities to further bolster our slate, but there’s no fundamental change to our strategy. We were already big believers in original films for our service and we’re investing in them. Streaming allows the flexibility to explore various themes. It is a personal or shared experience driven by the choices we make. All characters, irrespective of whether they are conventional or novel, can be explored with greater depth on streaming services because there isn’t a set format of storytelling to stick to. Creators have more opportunities to tell different kinds of stories, with characters that exist around us but have never been seen before. This is because there will always be an audience in India and around the world, for the story they want to tell. Streaming is also bringing in more innovation and experimentation in content. At Netflix, creators have the freedom to do what’s best for their story because they know every story can find its audience. It’s really about bringing the story to life in the most authentic way possible and it is this authenticity that the audience loves. We understand that not everything will appeal to everyone, which is why we invest in a variety of stories so that you always have something you’ll love on Netflix.
What are the factors that influence your programming?
We want a robust slate of stories that are differentiated and suited to different moods. We understand that sometimes, you want to lean back and watch a delightful comedy, and at other times, you want to enjoy a pulse-pounding thriller that brings you to the edge of your seats. What is key for us is that all of them should find their own audience and entertain them and as more people discover and watch a title it becomes a bigger hit. Every night is a premiere night on Netflix. Unlike an opening night in a theatre or a limited airing on TV, stories on a streaming service can be discovered from when they premiere to whenever new consumers join the service and find the titles that appeal to them. These stories could be recent releases like Ludo, A Suitable Boy and Masaba Masaba or be earlier hits like Sacred Games, She and Guilty.
How do you decide what projects to greenlight?
For us, the greenlighting process starts with storytellers with a really passionate vision for the series they want to create or the film they want to make. We look for their ability to execute against that vision. We want to work with amazing storytellers; this could be a great director with incredible success or a young writer with a story that’s never been told before. Sometimes when we listen to a great idea, it stops in our tracks because it’s something we’ve never heard before. On occasion a story just grips you and then when you feel the enthusiasm of the writer or director in the room, you feel the magic happen.
What does the future look like?
There are many more possibilities to tell diverse stories which can find the right audience across the world- stories that have not been told before, stories that are fresh or challenge perspectives, and stories that reflect more lives on screen. This golden age of entertainment in India has opened up lots of opportunities and inspired more storytellers to come forward.