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Be Patient, Says Netflix

The reason that Netflix India isn't brimming over with the newest Bollywood offerings is that licensing rights do not allow it

Netflix is now a month old in India. Or a month young, as the video streaming company's chief communications officer, Jonathan Friedland, reminds us. All those who signed up immediately and didn't opt out after a reminder, will see their accounts switching into the paid mode at whatever plan was selected. How many will choose to continue with Netflix, we are unlikely to know for the only numbers Netflix will share are from its large home country base.

From social media anecdotes we do know that it would take a lot more content to satisfy the average Indian user. "Please be patient, " says Friedland, "Remember we're only a few weeks into the journey. We opened up to several countries at the same time, but we do live in a world where all content is not free for use everywhere. We believe it should be, but while it isn't we need to respect the licensing rights of content providers," he says.

The reason that Netflix India isn't brimming over with the newest Bollywood offerings and the massive numbers of movies that come out of India, as well as international titles and TV shows is that licensing rights do not allow it. "Whatever market we're getting into, we start with a core group of titles and then learn what people really like to watch," says Friedland, "We build the service around what we're seeing as opposed to what we think we know. When we arrive in a country, we learn so much more from being there rather than from all the research we have done."

Currently, Netflix has a mix of movies and TV shows in several genres. Streaming works well, given a healthy Wi-Fi connection. The app itself is friendly and easy to use by those who are not otherwise tech savvy, though the first surge of adopters are the tech savvy. It is the Bollywood section that is rather sparse or rather doesn't contain classic titles or very popular ones.

One of the challenges for Netflix in India is of course the fact that the audience is perhaps more diverse than anywhere else and a great amount of local language content -- as well as an app interface -- would be needed to be as popular as the service is in the US. "We will begin to fill up the service as we see what different audiences want," says Friedland, "We need to think about relationships with local broadband providers, original content, payment plans, and all that is going to take time. And this has been the same for all the countries we have entered. The first day of Netflix is the worst Netflix you'll see because we add on and get better."

Meanwhile, local players are coming up with OTT content offerings, all of which will certainly compete with Netflix as far as Indian and hyperlocal content goes. Predictably, Netflix says it welcomes competition and the opening up of the market.


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