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OTT players spend exceeds traditional broadcasters; Netflix weighing Indian content to drive growth

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MUMBAI: Online platforms such as Amazon and the streaming giant Netflix have ramped up their investment in programming, investing US$ 7.5 billion last year which is more than HBO, Turner and CBS in most countries including Australia and South Korea.

Netflix invested over twice as much on original programming as the entire Australian TV market, a new report stated. In India, it could look at licensing deals and produce more local language content as it seeks to strengthen its presence here.

The US-based company, which expanded into over 130 markets, entered India a few months ago and rivals streaming sites or platforms such as Star India’s Hotstar, SonyLiv, YuppTV, Spuul, Ditto TV, Eros Now, and Hungama. All these are betting on growing smartphone and Internet use to drive growth. Netflix could soon be introducing 'download-and-go' offline streaming.

Between 2013 and 2015, Amazon and Netflix doubled their annual investments on programming. In 2013, Amazon spent US$ 1.22 billion, that jumped to US$ 2.67 billion in 2015. In the corresponding period, Netflix investments rose from US$ 2.38 billion to US$ 4.91 billion, a IHS Markit report stated while examining how TV programme producers are adapting to the era of internet TV.

“Netflix and Amazon investments are only topped by Disney ($11.84 billion) and NBC ($10.27 billion),” said IHS Technology senior principal analyst Tim Westcott,.

Netflix added over 50 per cent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter as original shows such as "Stranger Things" drew new international viewers and kept US customers despite a price hike, according to FactSet StreetAccount.

Other online platforms such as China’s Youku Toudu, iQifyi, Tencent and Hulu in the US have also increased their investment in original programming and acquisitions.

“More and more consumers are watching content online, shaking the foundations of the traditional TV industry,” Westcott said. “However, it’s premature to declare that the era of linear TV is over," he added.

Westcott estimated that, in 2015, the US represented 33 per cent of worldwide expenditure on TV programming, with US$ 43 billion invested across free-to-air, pay TV and online.” “Netflix and Amazon, though they are US companies, are now commissioning for multiple territories, so we have treated them as global platforms.”

The biggest markets in Western Europe were the UK with $10.7 billion, Germany ($7.3 billion), France ($6.6 billion) and Italy ($4.6 billion). “Notably, China is now the second largest market in Asia Pacific, with $8.4 billion invested last year,” Westcott said. Japan is the largest in the region with $9.8 billion, followed by South Korea ($2.6 billion), Australia and India—both on $2.4 billion.

Netflix considers pouring money into building its stable of licensed and original movies and TV shows. Content spending will rise to $6 billion next year, a $1 billion increase from 2016, its CEO Reed Hastings has said.

It faces competition from the likes of Amazon and Hulu. Figures released in the World TV Production Report 2016 claim Netflix spent US$ 4.91bn on new programming the last year, compared to Australia’s total market spend of US$2.4bn. Amazon, which may reportedly launch in Australia in a few months, increased its programming investment in 2016 to US$ 2.67bn from US$ 1.22bn in 2015, although far below Disney's spend of US$ 11.84bn in 2016.

In India however Netflix has branded itself in the premium bracket and therefore has some disadvantage as far as pricing is concerned. A majorly English language content makes business difficult for Netflix in India. More local language content and licensing deals could help in this context. Netflix, which has not disclosed its subscribers base in India, may need to adopt a localisation strategy for growth in the country.

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