Online streaming giant Netflix continues to treat India as the stomping ground for its fresh payment plans and other features, as it tries to lure users in a market with 700 Mn internet users and nearly as many smartphone users. The company is now planning to offer selected users in India, free access to Netflix over the weekend.
Admitting to a slow users growth in the quarter that ended September 2020, Greg Peters, COO and chief product officer at Netflix, during the company’s recent earnings call, said that the company will keep experimenting with new ways to drive user acquisition. The plan to extend access to Netflix for no cost over the weekend will be tried in selected markets and will be first rolled out in India, where the company competes with Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar and around three dozen other streaming giants.
“We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend could be a great way to expose a bunch of new people to the amazing stories that we have, the service and how it works … and hopefully get a bunch of those folks to sign up,” he said during the earnings call. As of now, no dates for the launch of the feature have been announced by the company.
Previously, the company has devised India-specific subscription plans.
Last year, the company had launched an INR 199/month subscription plan for users in India, which restricts the usage of the service to just one device and offers only the standard definition viewing at ~480p. It also supports viewing on tablets.
In July, Inc42 reported that Netflix was testing an INR 349/month Mobile+ plan for Indian users. Subscribers to the plan would be able to watch high definition (HD) content on the platform, on a single device at a time.
In August, Netflix launched a Hindi interface for its website and mobile app. Currently, Netflix is offering discounts to users who choose to renew their subscription for 12 months.
Besides payment plans, Netflix has its hands deep in the Indian market, with plans to source local content in Hindi and other Indian languages as well, through partnerships with Indian production houses such as Reliance Entertainment-owned Viacom18. Recently, the company partnered Reliance’s digital venture Jio Platforms. With the partnership, Jio offers a complimentary subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar with its PostPaid Plus plans.
This year, Netflix has also been acquiring new office spaces in Mumbai, India. Last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had said that the company would invest INR 3,000 Cr to produce original content for the Indian market over 2019-20. The company has also started producing unscripted content (reality TV, quiz and game shows) in India from this year, besides its slate of 22 films and television shows to be produced and released in India (some have already been released).
The company’s expansive India strategy indicates its hurried bid to grab a piece of the large market size for OTT platforms in India.
Streaming Giants Clash For Indian OTT Market
The overall OTT market in India is expected to grow at 21.8% CAGR from INR 4,464 Cr in 2018 to INR 11,976 Cr in 2023, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023. A September 2019 report by KPMG predicts that India will have more than 500 Mn online video subscribers by FY2023. This would make it the second-largest market after China.
Notably, other global streaming services with a presence in India, such as Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar are also pulling out all stops to ace the competition between the several streaming platforms, both domestic and international, in India.
In August, Inc42 reported that of the 60.5 global subscribers for Disney+ Hotstar, 15% or around 9 Mn subscribers are from India.
The subscription cost for Disney+ in India is among the lowest in the world at INR 1499/year or $20. Further, an even cheaper subscription model, priced at INR 399/year or roughly $5.5 exists with limited offerings in terms of content available on the platform.
Disney+ Hotstar was launched in India on April 3 and according to a study by consultancy firm Media Partners Asia, could become the second-highest revenue-earning video platform in India by 2025, behind only YouTube. According to the study, Disney+ Hotstar’s revenue will grow from an annual $216 Mn last year to $902 Mn by 2025. That is despite forecast contraction to $175 Mn in 2020, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hotstar is one of the most popular video-on-demand streaming services in India with more than 300 Mn active users. The platform and its India operator Star India were acquired by The Walt Disney Company as part of a deal worth $71 Bn with 20th Century Fox last year.
In contrast, data from US-based market research company eMarketer predicts that while Netflix will post solid growth of around 26% in Indian this year, its subscriber base will only climb to 10.2 Mn, a penetration rate of 3.1% — up from 2.8% in 2019.
As of last year, Hotstar was winning the streaming war in India, as it commanded around 30% market share. Amazon was at 10% market share while Netflix had 5% market share. Indian streaming platforms such as JioTV, SonyLIV, Wynk Movies and Voot are also popular among the Indian masses.
However, this year, Netflix and Amazon seem to have received a boost in viewership in India amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Data from JustWatch, an international streaming guide mentions that both companies commanded a fifth of the market share in the second quarter of 2020, while Disney+ Hotstar came in a close third at 17% market share.