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Netflix India’s Next Frontier Is Live Streaming, Content Chief Monika Shergill Says Slate Is Becoming Broader: ‘It’s Big, Bold and Diverse’

Netflix has revealed its upcoming 2024 Indian slate and Monika Shergill, VP, content has outlined the streamer’s commissioning philosophy and strategy for the country. 

New titles on the slate include: Luv Ranjan comedy film “Wild Wild Punjab”; Neeraj Pandey heist film “Sikandar Ka Muqaddar”; scripted Anubhav Sinha thriller series “IC 814: The Kandahar Hijack”; Kapil Sharma’s unscripted comedy series “The Great Indian Kapil Show”; and cricket themed docu-series “The Greatest Rivalry – India vs Pakistan,” featuring top Indian and Pakistani cricketers. 

These are in addition to a host of previously announced films and returning series across multiple genres. Highlights include Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s lavish period drama “Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar” and Nisha Pahuja’s Oscar-nominated documentary “To Kill a Tiger.”

“Overall, if I look at the slate, I think the incredible diversity that we are very intentionally programmed to is something that I’m very excited about,” Shergill told Variety. “If I look back at last year, what we did was, have a very packed entertainment slate, we had a lot of critically-acclaimed titles, which also got a lot of audience love, but this year, the shift is that we have the critical acclaim titles, but I think there are a lot more for a broader audience also, with certain specific offerings. We are operating more and more across the spectrum of audiences that we are bringing on the service.” 

From a film acquisitions point of view, Netflix has snared some of the highest profile titles of 2023 across India’s various language industries, including “Jawan,” “Animal,” “Salaar,” “Leo” and “Guntur Kaaram.” Shergill notes the “cross pollination” on the service, citing audience data that reveals people coming in to watch blockbuster films and moving on to other genres including original commissions and documentaries and vice versa.

“Netflix India’s commissioning philosophy is big and bold and very diverse because India as a country, as an audience, from one part of the country to another, whether it’s a Hindi-speaking market, to the middle of India, to the south of India. You see shifting preferences from big metros to the tier two cities, and across the socio economic spectrum you see people like different things. So, diversity is very, very important for us,” Shergill said.

The streamer’s India commissioning strategy revolves around fresh ideas, creative voices and stories that are urgent and important, Shergill added. “Backing enough new talent on and off screen, and yet having legacy studios, like YRF [Yash Raj Films] bring the expertise of what they do in big cinema and their understanding of larger audiences, and bringing that lens of appealing to that large audience and delivering it in different formats from documentary to series and films,” Shergill said. In 2023, YRF delivered hit docu-series “The Romantics” and hit scripted series “The Railway Men” for Netflix. The association continues on the 2024 slate with films “Maharaj” and “Vijay 69.”

Netflix’s India service is amongst the company’s lowest cost in the world, with monthly plans ranging from mobile only at INR149 ($1.80), basic at INR199 ($2.40), standard at INR499 ($6) and premium at INR649 ($7.80). In a country where a large percentage of streaming viewership is on mobile devices, subscription growth is being driven by carriage partnerships with telecoms providers, including India’s largest, Jio, Shergill said. 

“In terms of everything that’s coming on the service, there is such a steady drumbeat that, between the variety of offerings, the fact that we are very intentionally and very mindfully programming to quality, the growth is following it,” Shergill said. “We’ve been one of the fastest growing markets last year and this year. And also, more than just the fastest growing, I want to underscore that we have been one of the largest markets by engagement within Netflix. That is something which is very important for us, because really the true metric of success in streaming is engagement. How engaged are your audiences. How much are they watching on your service. How many times are they coming back? How often are they coming? How are they completing? As a service that really values storytelling and ideas and creative voices, that is the most primary metric for us.”

Netflix recently experimented with a live stream of the SAG Awards. And now, live streaming is seen as the next frontier in India. “The fact that we are programming [topical weekly program] ‘The Great Indian Kapil Sharma Show,’ that in itself will be such a relentless sprint for us that I think live is the next step and the minute we feel that there is a right idea, I think live is something that we are leaning into, both from a content and tech perspective,” Shergill said.


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