Since it launched in India in 2016, Netflix has been willing to adapt its strategies to expand its market share in the world’s second-most populated country. Last year, it slashed subscription prices to compete with lower-priced local streaming services while expanding its catalog of Indian content in languages other than Hindi.
After two consecutive quarters of subscriber losses globally, Netflix is rethinking its content strategy across the company. From abandoning previously announced Original films to boosting its investment in licensed theatrical releases, change is coming to Netflix India.
With that in mind, we wanted to look at how Netflix Original Indian Movies compare to titles licensed from other Indian studios in terms of viewership. Which kinds of movies get watched more: Netflix Originals or licensed content?
How did we determine our results?
In 2021, Netflix began posting weekly global Top 10 data for movies and series and Top 10 data for certain countries. Our Netflix Top 10 Hours Viewed Title Search tool has data going back to July 4th, 2021.
With that in mind, we only considered movies that were added to Netflix from July 1, 2021 until July 3, 2022 (the cutoff point for our data for the purposes of this article).
We only considered fiction movies with official release dates from 2021 and 2022 — no older back catalog titles that wouldn’t be expected to chart, no animated movies for kids, and no non-fiction material like stand-up comedy specials or documentaries.
Also, the “hours viewed” only refers to the hours measured while a given title was in the Global Top 10, as reported weekly by Netflix. These are not the cumulative hours watched over the life of a film (which Netflix doesn’t publicize).
Which kinds of movies do people watch the most?
Of the 47 Indian movies that met the qualifications mentioned above, 29 of them (about 60%) placed in Netflix’s weekly Top 10 rankings at least once. Seven of those movies were Netflix Originals, and 22 were films licensed from other studios. During the timeframe in question — July 4, 2021-July 3, 2022 — Netflix released a total of eight Original films.
The only one that didn’t chart was Cobalt Blue (which Netflix unceremoniously released after striking the director’s name from the credits).
39 licensed titles were added during that period, meaning that about 45% of licensed titles never made it into the Top 10.
The average Original movie spent 12,015,714 hours in the Top 10, with the Christmas Eve 2021 superhero movie Minnal Murali clocking the highest total (25,020,000 hours, third highest in this list overall) and the anthology film Ankahi Kahaniya posting the lowest total (1,260,000 hours).
The average licensed film spent 13,133,636 hours in the Top 10 — not much more than the average Netflix Original movie — with Thimmarusu posting the lowest total overall (1,220,000 hours). Two releases greatly inflate the average for licensed films: May 2022’s RRR (Hindi) with 54,280,000 hours and April 2022’s Gangubai Kathiawadi with 50,800,000. Take those two out, and the average for licensed movies drops to 9,193,000 hours.
All this is to say that Netflix Originals can hold their own against licensed titles, even though theatrical releases have a higher potential ceiling thanks to pre-existing audience familiarity. High quality Original movies are especially important for building value over time. The Netflix Original Western-noir Thar ranked 4th in Ormax Media’s list of “Most-Liked Hindi Direct-to-OTT Films (Jan-June 2022)” in India, behind two Disney+ Hotstar titles and a Zee5 movie. The film Dasvi — which was released directly on Netflix but is not an Original movie — ranked 5th.
What can we expect going forward?
Even though Netflix plans to be choosier about financing in-house projects and emphasizing licensing theatrical hits, this is a great time for the company to invest in Indian films — and it’s all thanks to Gangubai Kathiawadi. The Netflix debut of Alia Bhatt’s historical drama on April 26, 2022 heralded the start of a boom era for Indian movies on Netflix.
Almost half of the Indian movies that made the weekly Top 10 charts during the period we looked at debuted on Netflix in the months of April, May, and June, 2022. Of the 19 movies that joined Netflix in that three-month period, 14 of them found their way into the Top 10. In the preceding nine months, 28 Indian films hit Netflix, but only 15 made it into the Top 10 charts.
Adding a blockbuster like Gangubai Kathiawadi followed a month later by the Hindi dub of the mega-hit RRR, boosted interest in all of Netflix’s Indian movies. Adding more dubbed dialogue options to Indian titles has made it easier for fans to connect with films on Netflix in their preferred language. An early look at the July 2022 viewing data shows this increased interest in Netflix’s Indian movie catalog.
Netflix has a bunch of attention-grabbing Indian Original films already in the pipeline.
Alia Bhatt is poised to deliver Netflix another hit with her August 5th release, Darlings.
There are projects on the way from stars like Kareena Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, and lauded director Vishal Bhardwaj. Zoya Akhtar’s ensemble picture The Archies will launch the acting careers of a bunch of stars’ children in 2023 (albeit not without its own controversy) and may even pull in some Riverdale fans.
The momentum is there for Indian films — Netflix Originals and licensed content — to become a critical part of Netflix’s global movie portfolio.
What Indian movies on Netflix are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!