India churns out more than 1,000 films a year. Netflix thinks content made in India will be a good addition to the streaming service’s varied global offering.
“There are great stories everywhere, but there are really four or five centers of TV and film (globally). Mumbai (Bollywood) is certainly one of them, and it is important for us, because we are going to be actively invested in India,” Erik Barmack, VP for International Originals at Netflix, told Reuters in an interview. The first of its original series in India is “Sacred Games”, based on author Vikram Chandra’s eponymous book, which streams on Netflix this Friday.
Bollywood has rarely moved beyond its comfort zone, content in making films that suit its home audience, but Netflix is hoping that the mix of kitsch and melodrama will appeal to its global audience too.
“The potential is huge. The simple one is just the diaspora, which is if you added up all the users in our global markets outside India, it would be bigger than many European countries. But there is craft and skill in the film market here, and we strongly believe that what is happening in places like Spain, where that content is traveling, will happen in India too,” Barmack said. Netflix has commissioned several more shows in India, including an adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Man Booker-winning novel, “The White Tiger”, as well as Prayaag Akbar’s “Leila”.
In February, CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix’s next 100 million subscribers would come from India, citing rising mobile penetration and falling data costs.
Since launching in 2016, Netflix has been slower in India than rival Amazon, which has already aired much more local content. But Barmack says the company is scaling up faster in India.