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Can Streaming Giants Break Into Bollywood?

Netflix and Amazon Rush to Create Content for India

India implemented some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. As the nation of 1.3 billion people stayed home, streaming services like Netflix (NFLX), Disney+ (DIS), and Amazon (AMZN) rushed to entertain them.

American companies are pouring money into creating content that appeals to Indian viewers. Netflix, for example, has a plan to spend $400 million on content for India during 2019 and 2020.

Amazon Prime subscriptions went up by 67% in India between mid-March and mid-April. Netflix subscriptions rose 65% during the same period. However, because moviegoing culture is so strong in India, investors are wondering if streaming services will be able to keep up their numbers when the pandemic subsides.

A Strong Moviegoing Culture

In 2019, India’s nearly 3,000 multiplexes generated an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue—a 12% jump from the year before. Most of those ticket sales were from Indian-made movies, and Hollywood movies only accounted for 15% of that amount. A recent survey showed that 82% of people in India miss going to movie theaters during the pandemic.

One reason movie theaters are so popular in India is because Bollywood films feature elaborate song and dance numbers meant to be enjoyed on the big screen. Another reason is that only about half of India’s population has regular internet access.

The Fastest-Growing Internet Market in the World

Streaming giants are not alone in their quest to gain ground in India. Last week, Google (GOOGL) announced a plan to invest $10 billion in India’s digital economy. Facebook (FB), Twitter, (TWTR), and other American tech giants have also rushed to invest in the fastest-growing internet market in the world.

700 million Indian people use the internet regularly, and about the same amount have yet to become digital citizens, but that is rapidly changing. Streaming platforms have a unique challenge in navigating India’s move online. If they can successfully break in to the country’s strong moviemaking and movie-watching culture, there is potential for enormous growth.

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