Here’s how Netflix is customising platform for Indians
Netflix last year disclosed its ambition to add about 100 million subscribers from India alone. The streaming company is banking on India's massive internet user base which is estimated to be north of 500 million. While Netflix is improving and expanding its content catalogue for the Indians, it's also tweaking the technology under the hood.
There's a big focus on personalising the experience for the local audience. Its personalisation, however, is not just restricted to the machine learning-based content recommendations. It includes personalising smaller things such as posters for each individual.
In an interaction with Hindustan Times, Todd Yellin, VP-Product, Netflix said the personalisation is done carefully with correct tagging and ensure it's not a clickbait. The personalisation is aimed at each individual instead of data set for a particular set of people in certain geography, he clarified.
"Machine learning is important for us," he said, adding, "We believe in users' privacy. This is why we have a subscription model instead of ad-based."
Netflix's artwork personalisation had attracted criticism online last year for being intrusive and in some cases for "racial profiling." The company later clarified it does not access user's race, gender or ethnicity and that the customisation is based on users' viewing history.
For India, Yellin pointed out that Netflix leverages technology to provide a faster and buffer-free experience. This includes working with local internet service providers under its Open Connect programme. The partnership allows Netflix to achieve lower latency and localise a high volume of traffic, instead of looping it on from the US.
"India was no.1 reason we brought the download feature," Yellin said, adding Netflix now offers adaptive streaming which automatically changes quality of video depending upon the network speeds. It also determines internet speeds to whether show a still or a video trailer.
He said that the internet consumption and speeds have significantly improved in the last couple of years. Until two years ago, people were "obsessed with data cost," he added.
Yellin also talked about Netflix's preparedness for newer technologies such as 5G and possibilities of more Bandersnatch-like interactive content.
On 5G, Yellin said that the adoption of a faster network is a "welcome change." He pointed out that Netflix's adaptive streaming technology also allows scaling up of content to HDR and 4K quality which will leverage the newer 5G network.
On the success of Bandersnatch, Yellin said it was one-of-the-first interactive content to be available on all kinds of devices. But he cautioned that "tech does not drive story" but "story has to drive tech." After the success of Bandersnatch, storytellers are coming to Netflix with newer ideas for interactive content.
"[The interactive content] does not have to be sci-fi. It could be whacky comedy, horror, and even sports," Yellin said, adding "more interactive content will be available in the next two years with better technology."