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technology | IST

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says no plans to cut subscription prices in India; plays down growing competition

Netflix has no plans to cut subscription prices in India, said Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of the company, adding that the company was testing smaller pricing plans in other countries.
Playing down growing competition between major over-the-top (OTT) players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hot Star, Hastings said that there was a place for everyone in the market.
"The competition is great for creators; there are so many opportunities for young writers to be discovered," Hastings told CNBC-TV18 on the sidelines of Netflix's APAC Slate 2018 in Singapore. "You could think of it as a battle, but you could also think of it as multiple choices. There's place for everyone," he said, adding he was a fan of Amazon Prime video: "I watch Amazon Prime, every week. It's a great service!"
On competition with Alt Balaji and Hot Star, he said, "I've heard great things about these players, but I haven't been able to watch their shows," he said, adding "we are not looking to monitor or study competitors; we are focused on customers and what they love."
Amidst the demand for pre-screening committees to clear over-the-top (OTT) digital content in India, the US-based online streaming service provider has brushed aside these concerns. Hastings asserted that the question of pre-screening does not arise when customers control content.
"We allow parental controls, set maturity levels and there's no advertising on Netflix," said Hastings, "The government may have concerns about the open internet, but Netflix is the least concerning of the internet." He added. "Each government gets to make its own choices, but we are a very safe, small part of the internet."
Evolving customer demands in Asia has prompted the online streaming behemoth to announce the launch of 17 original titles from Asia for 2019. This includes Thai titles like 'Shimmers' and 'The Stranded', and its long-awaited Chinese title 'Triad Princess'.
Netflix has also announced the launch of eight original film titles from India: Chopsticks, Bulbul, Cobalt Blue and and Hotel Mumbai, to name a few. It will also follow up the widespread success of Sacred Games, with another original series from India, Typewriter.
"We have been fortunate to grow in India over the last three years," said Hastings. "The larger we get, the more we can afford in terms of content, and new launches will depend on how much we grow, which looks promising as of now."
Hastings also detailed his company's content strategy of adding great production value to quintessential television content. "We are trying to produce TV shows with movie production values, like Sacred Games," he said.
With House Of Cards coming to a successful end, with Robin Wright's performance as Claire Underwood being singled out for specific praise, Reed Hastings said writing Kevin Spacey - and his character, Francis Underwood - out of the show, wasn't hard to do.
"It was not difficult to write Kevin Spacey out of House Of Cards at all, given the circumstances," he said. In 2017, Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple men and women, some of whom alleged predatory behavior on the sets of House Of Cards.
Subsequently, Robin Wright took over the reins of the show, and her character, Claire Underwood, went on to become the lead. "What's amazing is how Robin Wright naturally carries the story line through and becomes a very unique kind of person in that show," added Hastings.
'Want to grow in India, don't care how long it takes'
Hitting 100 million Netflix subscribers in India, seems to be Reed Hastings' first target. "We don't have a specific time frame; if it takes 10 years, that's fine," he said. Acknowledging that the internet in India is getting faster and less expensive, Hastings said great content was the only strategy to fuel growth.
"If we do content that everyone wants - like Lust Stories or Ghoul - everything will be great." he said. "We don't know how big the market will be in the next few years. Hopefully, we'll be one of the major players."