Is it screw Hollywood, it’s all Bollywood for Netflix too?

Lady Gaga visited India and got the press rolling. Not that the Indian press need any special event to get rolling but Gaga has impressed quite a few, including the biggies of Bollywood.

Lady Gaga had this parting comment on her Twitter stream : Screw Hollywood, it’s all about Bollywood with an interesting picture to go with it.

Gaga’s comment couldn’t come at a better time. Bollywood is getting its long- pending recognition. Some say it is tantamount to India’s economic clout in the global proceedings and some say Bollywood has come of age. Either way, the world is coming to Indian cinema in a big way. Slumdog Millionaire and Rehman’s Oscar (though I found Rehman’s first ever movie score in Roja much better) kicked things off and then it followed with a bunch of collaborations.

Hip Hop star Akon’s partnership with Shah Rukh’s Ra.One is a first in its own way.
So, where is all this going?

To a flatter and connected world of course. Now Netflix is contemplating an India entry. As per GigaOM, Netflix is looking for someone who can communicate in Hindi.

“We are looking for experienced linguists with the ability to translate and customize marketing, UI and content materials for the target market. We are looking for highly motivated individuals with the right mix of technical, organizational and communication skills to provide localization for the Netflix experience in the following languages: Turkish, Dutch, Russian, French, Hindi, German, Italian, Danish, Korean, Finnish, Japanese, and Spanish.” (GigaOM)

There are already players in India’s streaming scenario. BigFlix and Airtel have recently collaborated for a streaming service with a monthly rental. That service was limited to Airtel broadband subscribers only. YouTube and Yahoo have launched their own streaming service. The service from Google and Yahoo is free and is limited to a certain number of movies.

Can Netflix cause disruption?

Any player with deep pockets can cause disruption either through attractive offerings or through pricing. In India, pricing almost always wins. But video streaming isn’t selling shampoo or pre-paid phone cards.

Broadband has to go with a streaming service. India unfortunately still defines 256 kbps as Broadband. There are still less than 12 million subscribers even for this 256 kbps or above service, as per TRAI. 3G which has been seen as an elixir for India’s connectivity problems is cost prohibitive. Watching a movie on a 3G service could ring up some serious bills. India seems to be pinning its hopes on 4G/LTE service which is being rolled out by Reliance.

Bottom line, it’s all up in the air. A major challenge every streaming service has to grapple with. Yet another challenge is India’s many states and languages to go with them.

India is not just Bollywood alone, contrary to what many think. There are many film industries in India which are equally lucrative and popular in their own way.

South India is especially famous for its movies with 4 spoken languages of Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada having their own film industry each. Netflix, or whoever wants to stream to India, have to make sure to get into India’s many film industries.

Infrastructure, localized content along with Bollywood content are the  important things to consider for Netflix’s India entry.

Netflix will have one distinct advantage over BigFlix though. Its huge collection of Hollywood content.

What do you expect from Netflix in India? How will BigFlix and Airtel take Netflix’s India entry?