Hari Krishnan
Guest Article

Netflix... and other acts of bravery

As people lap up, discuss, critique, analyse - and in some cases read - 'Sacred Games', our guest author pens an essay on Netflix, the 'brave' platform it's on.

Acts of bravery, sometimes bordering on foolishness, have shaped the history of the world. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand sparked off the first World War, leading to the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler’s eventual rise to power. The German invasion of Poland led to the second World War and the weakening of the British Empire. This triggered the Quit India movement and the eventual exit of the British from India. Mythology is also littered with pivotal acts of bravery but let me not go there, for fear of getting lynched.

Netflix... and other acts of bravery

Hari Krishnan

Even in sport, acts of bravery by inspired individuals have led to generations being inspired. In June 1983, on a cold, drizzly, afternoon at Tunbridge Wells, Kapil Dev smashed 175 off 138 balls and single-handedly won a crucial World Cup match for India against Zimbabwe. It is easily one of the greatest innings played by an Indian in any format of Cricket. Quite simply, because of the impact it has had on the sport in India. Without that whirlwind 175, there would’ve been no World Cup. Without the 1983 World Cup, there may have been no World Series victory in 1985, there may have been no Ravi Shastri and there would surely have been no tracer bullet. That curly haired boy from Bandra may not have taken to cricket and become a legend called Sachin Tendulkar. Without Sachin and his acts of bravery alongside Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS, Sehwag, Anil Kumble and the rest of the Indian team, there may not have been a Virat Kohli.

As the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Russia, on Day One, an inspired Cristiano Ronaldo scored a magical goal that had the whole world screaming in disbelief. I don’t think anything could’ve galvanised viewership for the World Cup the way that single free kick did. It brought in more viewers for the rest of the games... and of course things really peaked with the Argentina Vs France game which saw the young 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe sprint like a gazelle and score two wonderful goals in the second half to knock Argentina out of the World Cup and set the tournament on fire.

As is with history, mythology and sport, so it is with the world of brands and marketing. Diesel, Virgin, Pepsi, Nike, Apple, etc. are all brands that have inspired the rest of the marketing world with their acts of bravery. Most of the brands in the top 20 list today didn’t even exist a decade ago. Facebook, Google, Uber, Airbnb... it's a long list. Yes, everything around us has changed and is changing rapidly but these are brands which saw an opportunity or created an opportunity where none existed and bravely marched ahead and created a space for themselves. Audacity in imagination and bravery in execution are two standout qualities that define these brands. However, one brand really stands out for these qualities, and that is Netflix.

As the market capitalisation for Netflix touched $150 billion, nobody was the least bit surprised. Netflix has proven to be a global platform for acts of bravery. In an outright act of bravery in 2011, frustrated by the fact that they could not land the contract to stream HBO content to its then base of 20 million viewers, Netflix outbid HBO and committed $100 million for 26 episodes of House of Cards. Purchasing original content when it has had no airing on TV was seen as an unusual move by Netflix back then. Today that has become the norm and Netflix’s content budget alone is $8 billion, leave alone the rest.

When Reed Hastings bravely declared that Netflix’s purpose is to make sleep redundant, it made for a great headline. But they have lived up to that and how! Binge watching is now passé. In its bid to make sleep redundant, Netflix has created a whole new generation of Binge Racers - the ones who finish a series on the first day itself! The number of viewers pulling off that ambitious feat actually increased more than 20 times in the last three years... to 8.4 million Netflix users.

Of course, this list could go on, but if brands like Narcos, Crown, House of Cards, Stranger Things, Fauda, Mindhunter, Unabomber, etc. aren’t acts of bravery, then I don’t know what is. And this is not just a US phenomenon; Netflix picked up 6.36 million subscribers from international markets in the last three months of 2017, on the back of shows like Stranger Things, The Crown, etc. Netflix has bravely re-interpreted and re-imagined the idea of entertainment and gone into genres that television wouldn’t even dare to.

Making an impactful entry into this illustrious list is ‘Sacred Games’ from India. An act of bravery from India that is making waves across the world, if the initial reports are anything to go by. Water-cooler conversations and WhatsApp groups are divided into those who’ve watched the show and those who haven’t. Those who like it and those who don’t. Debates are raging and endless. This is what an act of bravery can do - change the world. Some brave attempts may fail but such acts of bravery are what will surely power the world of OTT apps and compel people to download.

Thanks to Sacred Games, there will be no dearth of adrenaline or inspiration for the millions of creative minds out there.

Meanwhile, I shall try to catch up on some sleep, much against the wishes of Reed Hastings.

(The author is President, Lowe Lintas and an occasional ranter).

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