Massification is working for Netflix numbers | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Massification is working for Netflix numbers

ByShuchi Bansal
Apr 12, 2024 10:18 AM IST

Netflix's move with The Great Indian Kapil Show sparked debate. Some see it as a way to expand user base, others question fit for core audience.

When Netflix launched The Great Indian Kapil Show on its service two weeks ago, it caused a stir in the media and entertainment world with critics, viewers, advertising and marketing experts airing their views for and against the move on social media.

Netflix co-founder and director Reed Hastings.(AFP)
Netflix co-founder and director Reed Hastings.(AFP)

Some slammed it to argue that the Kapil Show isn’t meant for American streaming platform’s core audience -- presumably premium and discerning. Netflix could benefit from remaining niche and servicing the top-end Indian customers happy to pay for high-quality content, they said. Others thought onboarding the popular comedy show earlier seen on Sony television was a masterstroke to expand the platform’s user base in the country.

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It’s too early to judge its success or failure but the first two episodes of The Great Indian Kapil Show are trending among the top 10 on the service globally in the non-English programming category.

Assuming Netflix’s core audience watches its international slate and other niche content, there’s a limit to how much revenue one can generate from them, says Shailesh Kapoor, CEO at Ormax, India’s specialized insights firm for the media and entertainment industry. “Netflix subscribers living in India’s top cities are already subscribing to the service. To increase subscriptions, it will have to go deeper as the next level of growth for streaming will come from its tier 2 towns and eventually from rural markets,” Kapoor believes.

An Ormax study noted that 79% OTT penetration in the metros and its slow growth underlines the need to chase small town consumers for expansion. There’s an average of 2.4 subscriptions per paying consumer and most of them live in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. Going forward, subscription growth for OTTs will come from more people paying for subscriptions rather than the same people paying for more subscriptions, says Kapoor.

For viewers in smaller towns the content must be more local and mainstream which makes Kapil Show a good fit in Netflix strategy, he says. As per Ormax estimates, the comedy show was watched by 5.5 to 6 million subscribers each time though the actual numbers may be higher since it’s a family show and more viewers may have seen it from a single account

Independent consultant and advertising veteran, Sulina Menon, says there is no right or wrong audience for a platform. “Kapil Sharma’s brand resonates in the country, especially in small towns. Also, getting him on board doesn’t take away from the platform. Watching popular mainstream content in my own language doesn’t make me any less premium an audience,” she says.

Brand marketing expert Shahbaaz Mohammed says Kapil Sharma moving out of Sony TV reflects the stress on Indian television market and declining TV ad revenues. “The Kapil show moving to Netflix is a bigger landmark in media than the Indian Premier League moving to JioCinema as it still allowed viewers to watch cricket on TV as well as mobile. Here the Kapil show is exclusive to Netflix and may result in an audience shift even if some of them lapse. To me the audience shift is a bigger deal than shared content across different channels,” says Mohammed who leads brand marketing for fitness startup CureFit.

To keep its growing audience base engaged, Netflix is adding more local, heartland stories to its service. Director Imtiaz Ali’s film on Punjab’s popular singer Amar Singh Chamkila featuring Diljit Dosanjh is slated for release soon. On Tuesday, Netflix had a glitzy trailer launch for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi in Delhi. While fans of Bhansali films may have a different sensibility, all Bollywood content is mass, feels Kapoor. “Whether it is The Great Indian Kapil Show, Animal or Heeramandi, Netflix is targeting a wider audience compared to say a smaller audience for a niche film like Three of Us,” he says.

After the platform launched its cheaper mobile-only plan to get more subscribers, and the crackdown on password-sharing and adding on more mainstream content, Netflix has seen its subscriber base jump from 6-7 million two years ago to 12 million today.

When Ormax mid-year listing of most watched web shows and films in India is out, it will likely feature more content from Netflix, says Kapoor. “Earlier its subscriber base was small. Now it has significant scale and early trends show that their content will feature among the most-watched on our list,” he adds.

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