Netflix "Working on Making Our Indian Service Better," Says Reed Hastings

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Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings

“We cannot wait to bring more locally produced series and films to our more than 93 million members households,” the CEO says as the streamer unveils new distribution partnerships in the country.

In a bid to expand its service's reach via direct-to-home and mobile platforms in India, Netflix on Monday unveiled three new distribution partnerships and said it is working on making "our Indian service better in every dimension."

India has emerged as a key streaming video battleground as both Amazon and Netflix have launched services in the country. They have taken different approaches though, with Amazon's Prime Video having unleashed a raft of local productions and licensing deals with leading Indian banners, while Netflix has only announced one series, Sacred Games, and a first Indian comedy special, featuring Vir Das, which will stream in April.

More recently, Netflix unveiled a licensing pact with top star Shah Rukh Khan's banner Red Chillies for its catalog and new titles. Netflix's upcoming offerings for the year include the Robert Redford-Jane Fonda film Our Souls at Night, helmed by Indian director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox, The Sense of an Ending).

Analysts have said Netflix will roll out more localized content over time to strengthen its service's appeal to local audiences.

"In 2017, we’ll be working on making our Indian service better in every dimension,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Without giving any further details, he added: “Working with some of India’s top artists, we cannot wait to bring more locally produced series and films to our more than 93 million members households around the world.”

Netflix on Monday unveiled new distribution deals with mobile phone giant Vodafone, telecom and DTH company Airtel and rival Videocon d2h. Airtel will integrate the Netflix app into its direct-to-home service, while Videocon's d2h service will allow viewers access to the streaming giant's service via a dedicated Netflix button on the remote control. In the mobile space, the partnership with Vodafone will enable payment integration allowing consumers to pay for their Netflix subscriptions via their mobile bills.

Hastings said in a statement that India "is one of the most important and vibrant countries in the world, and we are delighted to be teaming up with three of its leading companies to make it much easier for consumers to enjoy Netflix.” He added that “in the months and years to come, we look forward to bringing our Indian members more compelling stories from all over the world, an ever-improving viewing experience and incredible joy.”

The Indian Express also quoted Hastings as saying that India has several strong digital video players. “There’s a great battle with [21st Century Fox-owned Star India's] Hotstar, YouTube and Amazon and many others, all competing for a consumer’s time. We are one of the choices, but what’s unique about Netflix is that we’ve got ... international titles combined with great local talent.”