Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile screen plans for India

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Netflix’s current monthly plans are priced at Rs 500, Rs 650 and Rs 800, considerably higher than its competitors. (Image: Netflix)

Video streaming player Netflix, which had been testing mobile-only plans in India, on Wednesday said it will roll out lower-priced mobile-screen plans in the country in the July-September quarter. The move is seen as taking on competition from other similar OTT players like Amazon Prime Videos which are priced lower.

The US-based streaming platform said Indian audiences’ “growing engagement” with the platform motivated it to introduce cheap mobile tier offering in the country. The company said it is in India for the long haul where “growth is a marathon”.

“In a market where the typical pay-TV package is under $5, we think we need to have a lower price offering to improve the accessibility, but also one that complements the existing tiering structure that we have,” chief product officer Greg Peters said in the Q2 2019 earnings call.

Netflix has been testing weekly and monthly mobile-only plans starting at Rs 65 per week and Rs 250 per month for select mobile users in India. Netflix’s current monthly plans are priced at Rs 500, Rs 650 and Rs 800, considerably higher than its competitors.

According to research firm Media Partners Asia, Netflix has around a million subscribers in India and about 150 million subscribers globally.

Netflix competes with global OTT (over-the-top) players like Amazon Prime Video and domestic players Hotstar, Zee5, SonyLiv and AltBalaji in the Indian market. The company’s India unit posted a net profit of `20.2 lakh in the year to March 2018.

In India, Hotstar is the top app in terms of downloads and monthly active users (MAUs), according to a Ficci-EY report released in December 2018. Analysts said Hotstar presents a strong value proposition to Indian consumers with its plum offering of sports events, especially cricket, which is akin to religion in the country.

India with its access to abundant cheap data and growing young population, which consumes content on mobile phones, is an increasingly lucrative market for Netflix, analysts said. Out of three billion smartphones across the world currently, the Indian market accounts for over 450 million, estimate analysts at Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Earlier this week, Netflix announced five new India original series that will be developed in collaboration with leading domestic studios from Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma’s Clean Slate Films to Mutant Films. In 2017, Netflix invested around $70-$80 million on original content in the country.

The firm is increasingly producing content in Hindi and other regional languages to woo customers in the country where significant consumption of content is still in regional languages. Players like Zee5 are gaining traction on back of regional content.

In Q2 2019 (calendar year), Netflix’s paid membership grew by 2.7 million, less than the 5.5 million added in Q2 2018 and less than 5 million forecasted by the company. Revenue for the quarter stood at $4.9 billion, higher than revenue of $3.9 billion posted in Q2 2018.