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Topic: Why NETFLIX is frustrated

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Why NETFLIX is frustrated

In February 2018, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told a global business summit in Delhi that the streaming giant's next 100 million subscribers would be "coming from India" because of expanding and cheap internet.

Three years later, Mr Hastings doesn't sound so upbeat. On an investor call last week, he bemoaned the California-based firm's lack of success in India.

"The great news is in every single other major market, we've got the flywheel spinning. The thing that frustrates us is why we haven't been as successful in India. But we're definitely leaning in there," he said.

India's $2bn (£1.4bn) streaming market is fuelled by some 100 million subscriptions, according to Media Partners Asia, a media consultancy. Since launching six years ago, Netflix is sputtering here.

With an estimated 5.5 million paying subscribers, the world's biggest streamer is lagging way behind its main rivals, Disney+ Hotstar (46 million) and Amazon Prime Video (19 million), according to industry estimates.

Netflix created a splash in 2018 with Sacred Games, a sprawling and gritty gangster epic. Studded with Bollywood A-listers and helmed by two of India's finest filmmakers, the sleek thriller immediately won acclaim. The Economist magazine raved that Netflix's first original series proved that there was a future for "new combinations of old-school Hindi film talent, Hollywood values and Silicon Valley's billions".

Consumers have also begun to binge-watch shows based on true stories - Scam 1992, Punjabi Bagh escorts a thriller based on a rogue stock trader, streamed last year on SonyLIV and quickly became a much-talked about show.

Also grabbing eyeballs are dark heartland thrillers laced with violence and profanity - something Indians did not typically watch on TV with inter-generational families at home. "Consumers want value for money and time," says Vikram Malhotra, CEO of Abundantia Entertainment, a leading producer.

Netflix has tried hard to woo customers in India. It has slashed plan prices up to 60% - a mobile-only monthly plan now costs 149 rupees ($2). It has invested more than $400m to produce more than 50 films - including more than 30 Hindi-language films - and shows.

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