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Cutting The Cord

Friday, January 15, 2016

The launch of Netflix in India is like a godsend for those looking for a way to (legally) watch some of the most acclaimed international TV shows. Dev Goswami finds out if it can really replace the idiot box

We’re being told that this is the golden age of television, and that may be true! Some of the best television shows that have ever been produced are on air right now and unfortunately for us, it’s difficult to access most of them. Furthermore, the shows that do make their way to Indian airwaves are so tightly censored that even keeping track of the storyline (not to mention the annoying visual experience) becomes a pain. And so, it’s no surprise to see how excited people were about Netflix making its way in the Indian market — along with the necessary sarcasm from sceptics on Twitter, of course. Here’s what you need to know about using Netflix in India.

What’s on, today?
This is, undoubtedly, the most important aspect to consider. While the current list is nowhere close to what you may see in the USA or the UK, there are still quite a few. Netflix’s own show, House of Cards, for example, isn’t available, because its broadcast rights have already been sold to an Indian TV channel. Similarly, you won’t find productions from HBO (The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones) or Showtime (Shameless, Homeland). However, you will find Dexter and Weeds (both by Showtime) on Netflix India. Read our box to find out more about what’s on.

Money talks
We’re glad that the price structure doesn’t differ as much from US rates. For `500 you will get a basic subscription that allows you to stream in standard definition. For `650, you will get a high definition stream along with the ability to stream on two screens or devices. For `800, you get ultra-HD quality that allows four people to stream simultaneously. There seem to be teething problems with accepting Indian debit cards — our SBI debit card (which doesn’t work on Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store) worked fine, but there are reports of other debit cards being rejected. This can be because several private banks require an authorisation request from you before allowing your debit card to be used on international websites.

Technical matters
Your internet plan plays a crucial role. The service recommends speeds of 1.5 Mbps for SD, 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for ultra-HD. However, these are just recommendations — we were able to stream at speeds of under 1 Mbps and enjoyed pretty decent video quality. Another aspect to factor in is that our ISPs don’t offer truly unlimited plans. The Fair Usage Policy that is offered by most service providers states that once you use up a certain amount of bandwidth, your speed reduces drastically — and this could affect users. According to Netflix, an hour of low-quality streaming will take up 0.3 GB, while SD and HD will use up 0.7GB and 3GB per hour respectively. Ultra-HD, on the other hand, will take up 7GB in one hour. So, if your FUP limit is 15GB, you will exhaust it within three hours of ultra-HD streaming. With ultra-HD, also remember that you will need a device that supports it — most computer monitors don’t. Also, browsers such as Chrome and Firefox cannot stream videos in 1080p quality — the standard required for ultra-HD.

Our picks
Not sure what shows are worth binge-watching over the weekend? Here’s a list of what the 48hrs Team is looking forward to

  • Narcos Based on true events and featuring excellent acting, this is the story of the well-known Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar.
  • Suits Lawyer-ing with quotable dialogues and a gripping screenplay, this is a tried and tested combination that has never failed.
  • Breaking Bad Watch it now.  Enough said.
  • Better Call Saul It’s tough to follow up Breaking Bad  — almost impossible. Yet, spin off Better Call Saul, managed to stand out.
  • Orange is the New Black This show breaks stereotypes with fantastic acting and a great script.
  • Black Mirror Finally, a modern show that can rank alongside great dystopian fictions such as1984.

Tell us more!
Rhea Dhanbhoora spoke to Anne Marie Squeo, director of corporate communications at Netflix, regarding its launch in India. She answered a few questions for us that we’re sure have been on everyone’s minds since the service began in the country

Will the list of shows for Netflix India be the same the world over, or will there be country specific options?
Netflix looks to offer a robust mix of titles. Drama, action, comedy, documentaries, TV shows and movies for children — all the stuff people love to watch, personalised for them. For instance, Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace and Frankie, Master of None, Narcos and Marco Polo. For documentary lovers, we have What Happened, Miss Simone?, the docu-series Chef’s Table, Making a Murderer, and the Oscar-nominated Virunga among others. For children, Netflix has dozens of original series including The Adventures of Puss ‘n Boots, Dragons: Race to the Edge and the upcoming, much anticipated Fuller House.  We will add more as the service gains popularity and we get an understanding what our members want to watch in each region.

Do you think that countries like India need services like Netflix — do you see a growing market for them here?
People love TV, which explains why they still watch over a billion hours of linear television every day. What they don’t love however, is being required to watch shows at a certain time available on only certain devices.  That’s why services like Netflix, which deliver content via the internet wherever and whenever as per the viewer’s requirements, are growing. The service is extremely easy to use — members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any internet-connected screen for a monthly price. This service also makes international TV accessible to Indian audiences. You can even use it on more than one device depending on the membership you choose, and play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

Are there certain shows and films in the Netflix library in the US that won’t make their way to India?
The world of content licensing has traditionally been very fragmented and regionalised across the world. So, it will take a little while, perhaps several years at the very least, to get to an offering that’s the same everywhere.

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