Gone are the days where we would have to wait a week for a new episode of a favourite TV show. With streaming services like Netflix , Hotstar, and Amazon Prime, I binge on my favourite shows.
India, which is the world’s second largest internet market has become an exciting playground for streaming services. According to Reuters, Netflix has close to 100 million users worldwide and this number is steadily increasing. Jeff Bezos has shared that Amazon Prime has more than 100 million subscribers worldwide.
Hotstar, owned by Star India is the country’s largest streaming service and dominates the market with 70 per cent of all users. This could be credited to investments they have made in streaming sports matches. Earlier this year, 10.3 million users used the streaming service to watch the Indian Premier League final match. The number is a world record for a single sporting event.
According to CNBC, Facebook tried to buy the rights to the IPL for a whopping US$600 million but was outbid by Star India. With internet connectivity expanding rapidly all over the country and affordable internet rates, streaming services have greatly benefitted. Sports is one domain where streaming services gain subscribers.
A wonderful and growing trend is original content which streaming services like Netflix are focused on. A spokesperson for the company stated that, “Netflix programming is based on taste communities” which basically means their intention is to cater to a specific demographic. Sacred Games, a Netflix Original series centres around the Mumbai underworld. The content of the series is different from what Indian audiences are used to. The crime-based thriller is extremely captivating and has gained attention from global viewers and reviewers. The series is based in Mumbai and revolves around a criminal mastermind and the underbelly of the city. It is extremely detailed and the subject content is also something which is unlikely to come from mainstream Bollywood. At last watch, it has an IMDb rating of 8.4 which is higher than the 7.2 rating of the hit show 13 Reasons Why.
But Netflix is a premium streaming service in India and subscription costs are higher compared to other streaming services. A monthly subscription could cost between Rs.500 to Rs.800 which when compared to Rs. 129 for Amazon Prime, is a relatively big difference. Hotstar costs Rs.99 to Rs. 199 a month with an annual subscription fee of Rs.999.
According to CNN Tech, Hotstar dominates the Indian market with 75 million users; Amazon Prime has 11 million users whereas Netflix has only 5 million. In comparison to Hotstar, this number is quite small. Netflix however in a statement said that they were unlikely to move on from premium services.
Lust Stories, a Netflix Original movie from India has the most number of views for an original in terms of percentage. This shows the appeal of regional and original content from the country. The streaming service has seven original series from India in the works. This should help it garner a higher number of Indian users, many of whom use Netflix not only to watch Indian original shows and movies but programming from all over the world.
Ghoul, a three part mini- series is slated to be released on August 24, 2018. It is a horror series, and with its release on the heels of Sacred Games, Netflix is slowly gaining momentum.On Facebook and Twitter, the trailer has gained positive attention with horror movie enthusiasts anticipating its release.
Netflix seems to be focused on bringing out quality content from India especially after teaming up with Blumhouse, a production company that produced the Academy Award winning film Get Out, and Insidious and The Purge.
Netflix is most definitely expanding Indian cinema and reaching certain demographics that may prefer content that is different from a typical Bollywood offering. Pricing is an issue for consumers but according to a report by Livemint, this has not affected the company. Netflix rakes in the most revenue according to data analysed by App Annie.
The knock against Netflix could be its image as a service for the elite and the urban. Their original content is meant to cater to an international crowd. Amazon Prime, on the other hand seems to be more focused on Hindi-language content.
For example, Netflix is working on a series based on Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children while Amazon Prime just came out with Comicstaan, a comedy show featuring Indian comedians, and has produced many an original comedy special. And these comedy shows have high viewership rates. The Hollywood movies and American and British shows on Amazon Prime, however, do not do the same numbers, and a reason for that may be because the streaming service is keener on pushing Hindi shows and serials which appeal to the masses.
Indian content is gaining attention and different facets of India are being shown and viewed in a new light- a light which global or Indian audiences may not be all that familiar with. One also hopes that regional and content in a variety of other Indian langaues and dialects find homes in these streaming services.
Author: Jessica Passah
Jessica Passah is a Staff Writer. She has a B.A in English Literature from Hans Raj College, New Delhi, and an M.A in Public Administration from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.