Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

Netflix India’s long-term strategy is to grow member engagement, revenue, and attract new members: Monika Shergill

The vice president, content, says that the streaming platform will focus on catering to the diverse tastes of Indian audiences, while improving access to the service.

2022 was a crucial year for Netflix. The streaming service lost subscribers for the first time in 10 years. It lost two lakh subscribers in the first quarter and another 10 lakh in the second.

It had a turn around from its no ads policy and launched an ad-supported tier in November for consumers who prefer to pay a lower price to watch content on the platform.

In 2023, Netflix is set to put an end to password sharing as well.

The year (2022) started with Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO, expressing frustration over the platform’s lack of success in the Indian market. However, the platform witnessed significant growth over the year. The price cuts, which were introduced in December 2021, helped improve subscriber growth and audience engagement in 2022. Netflix India also launched a broad slate, with 27 new original titles. 

It aced the content game and acquired some major blockbusters like RRR, Kantara, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (all four in Hindi), and Beast (Tamil). Indian content received global recognition on the platform. Alia Bhatt’s Darlings achieved the highest global opening ever on Netflix and became the most watched Indian original film on the platform.

In an interview with afaqs!, Monika Shergill, vice president, content, Netflix India, shares what’s in store for the platform in 2023.

With some of the best films and series featuring on Netflix, 2022 was a great year for the platform in India, in terms of content. The price cuts also brought in a whole new set of audiences. How would you describe the year for Netflix India? 

2022 has been a defining year for us. The momentum around our slate, subscriber growth and high levels of audience engagement, equated to quite a year. 

Storytelling, innovation and music continued to play a big part in our line up. We released India’s first interactive adventure special Ranveer vs Wild with Bear Grylls.

Music was a key element for our popular films and series, such as Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein; Mismatched S2; Monica, O My Darling; and Qala. We launched a broad slate, with 27 new original titles across five formats, and a variety of genres across films, series, comedy, reality and documentaries. 

I’m so proud of our team, and the successes are a testament to the diversity we want to offer to our members. Our Indian content highlights include the return of some fan favourites, including the gritty second season of Delhi Crime, the intriguing season two of Jamtara and the latest installment of the edgy thriller She from Imtiaz Ali.  

We had three of the biggest blockbusters from Netflix India and they found audiences around the world. RRR (Hindi) was viewed for over 73 million hours, Gangubai Kathiawadi was viewed for over 50 million hours, and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 was viewed for over 21 million hours. 

In 2023, we’re focussed on expanding our offerings, and continuing to work with stellar creators and talent to bring more of the finest local stories and blockbusters to our members. 

As Netflix is losing subscribers globally, the push for growth in India feels more crucial than ever. What are some of the steps you are taking towards increasing your customer base this year? 

In the last quarter, we added more than 2.4 million paid members. As per Q4 2022 forecast, we will add 4.5 million subscribers (as reported in our Q3 2022 earnings).

We’re pleased with our progress in India across subscriber growth, engagement, revenue share and the incredible performance of our films and series - both in the country and around the world. We continue to see many signs of Netflix improving with its accessible pricing and the variety of our slate, resulting in our offering becoming a better fit for the Indian market.

With our personalised viewing experience and accessible price points, we’re giving our Indian members great value for their money. 

Our long-term strategy in India is to grow member engagement, revenue, and attract new members. We’re doing well across all three, and committed to continuing to invest and grow in the country. 

A recent Ormax Media report states that the next phase of growth for OTT platforms will come from Tier-II and III cities, as the metros are now saturated. Accordingly, the type of content will also need to change. As Netflix prepares for this growth, what are the changes viewers will see in the platform?

Our stories are from all over India, representing the incredible variety the country has. Our original films and series have been shot in more than 25 locations across the country, in eight languages. Our growing member base is from across the country.

We are constantly working on improving our offerings and helping our members to find diverse stories on Netflix. Our creative partnerships with creators from all over the country, help us to deliver great entertainment, best in class stories, and showcase must-watch series and films. This work will continue.

With our continued and growing curation of films in different Indian languages, it’s exciting to see these stories being watched outside of their (native language) region and find audiences across India and around the world. Behind the scenes, we do a lot of work around our dubbing and subtitles so that we can make all stories accessible to a wider audience.

A recent media report suggests that video streaming platforms are cutting content spending in India. What will this mean for viewers?

We’re committed to investing in both original and licensed Indian films and series. Our success lies in bringing stories from all corners of India and around the world. Our approach has not changed. Across 2019 and 2020, Netflix invested Rs 3,000 crore in content in India.

What are going to be some key growth areas for the platform in 2023? And, what are the key objectives for the year?

Our core strategy remains the same. We want to improve every aspect of Netflix and that’s exactly what we will continue to do. We’ll stay focussed on creating content that caters to the diverse tastes of Indian audiences, while improving access to our service.

As well as growing our content slate, we will push our ambitions further in the games space (globally, our games catalog grew from 0 to 48 games in one year). We’re excited about our first foray into live streaming with a globally live Chris Rock stand-up comedy special. This is our first time doing live and I’m excited to see how our members respond to it. 

We strive to constantly improve our service. We want to make Netflix the best entertainment service in India. 

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