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Netflix's potential India entry can change the television and online video streaming landscape in India

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:18 am IST

Published - January 05, 2016 04:22 pm IST - Chennai

Netflix was started in the late 90s with the idea of taking DVD rentals onto the online space Photo: AP

Netflix was started in the late 90s with the idea of taking DVD rentals onto the online space Photo: AP

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is on amid the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, and we are already seeing updates on autonomous cars and displays that roll up. There are not as many cutting-edge innovations presented now compared to years past, but there are always interesting developments announced at the keynote speeches scheduled during the event. Today, most of India’s online population with a love for movies and TV is awaiting a keynote address by Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. All because the video streaming giant may finally announce its arrival on Indian shores.

Netflix, which started in the late 90s with the idea of taking DVD rentals onto the online space, made the transition to online streaming partway through the last decade. Working with and going up against massive television networks and movie studios, the company curated an extensive library of on-demand videos, which users pay a monthly subscription to access. But the real success of Netflix has been its original content. While the service does provide access to shows that air on network television — leading to many users abandoning their cable connections altogether — it has now ventured into producing its own shows. Do Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards ring a bell?

Also catching on to the binge-watching nature of online videos, Netflix shows release of all episodes of a season simultaneously, preserving the vision of the creators from being swayed by immediate audience response. This has led to other big players like Marvel Studios using Netflix as a platform to release darker stories, like the critically acclaimed Daredevil and Jessica Jones . Netflix also gave shows like Arrested Development a new lease of life, while the Nineties sitcom Full House takes its story forward through Fuller House come February.

With Internet speeds and proliferation of smart devices on the rise, the time is right for Netflix to make its move into India, where television shows mostly consist of soap operas, reality TV and the occasional game show. While India does have existing services like BoxTV and Spuul, their content is mostly restricted to the very same soaps and regional films. With most of the online population already accessing Netflix and international television and films through illegal means for lack of a better alternative, making the service available in the country would be welcome. The subscription fee, converted from US dollars, would range between Rs. 500 – Rs. 700 a month, and current reports suggest it could be lower.

The one point of concern that exists is how Netflix may plan to introduce its services in India. Reports suggest it may tie up with a network provider with a 4G network to reach its audience. In the light of the ongoing Free Basics argument, this may be seen as adding fuel to the fire. Much like Facebook, which has come under fire for standing up for net neutrality on home turf in the U.S. and being ambiguous about it in India, Netflix has been criticised for partnering up with iiNet in Australia, and exempting itself from data caps. Though Hastings later apologised for this move and said the company would avoid such deals in the future, it remains to be seen what options the company may explore here.

All things considered, if Netflix does bring its staggering content library to India, it will create some far-reaching ripples. A large section of the urban population, who were used to downloading their favourite international shows, can now legally subscribe and watch them in high definition. The availability of inexpensive casting devices, like Google’s Chromecast and the local favourite Teewe, could lead to more people abandoning regular cable connections, as has been seen in many of the other 40-odd countries Netflix is available in. Many Indian creators, who have so far relied on publishing web-series through YouTube, may also find a better platform and a larger audience for their work. The advantages are certainly numerous, as long as Netflix, like Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, plays its cards right.

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