Competition in India’s OTT space is fierce — there are now more than three dozen platforms for customers to choose from — and the company that popularized the medium is getting creative to win over some customers.
Netflix is planning to give users in India access to its service at no charge for a weekend as part of a test to expand its reach in the country. “We think that giving away 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,” said Greg Peters, COO and Chief Product Officer at Netflix, speaking about India. Netflix’ international user growth has slowed down as the pandemic has hit — Netflix had added 15.7 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, 10 million in the quarter following that, and only 2.2 million in the latest quarter.
India’s 1.3 billion population, thus, could help Netflix sign up some new users. The proliferation of 4G internet though Jio has given high-speed internet access to more Indians than ever before, and the hugely-popular subscription to Hotstar, which allows Indians to watch live cricket, has also made them used to spending money to subscribe to a streaming service. Netflix has a fair bit of penetration among India’s top 1 percent users, but now wants to make inroads into Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. To this end, it had introduced a cheaper mobile-only subscription plan for Rs. 199 per month, which was expected to tap into audiences that traditionally don’t watch Netflix. Netflix is also investing heavily in original Indian content, creating popular shows including Sacred Games, Ghoul and Leila.
But competition in the space is intense. Netflix might have pioneered the genre, but now competes with deep-pocketed competitors including Amazon Prime and Disney Hotstar. Then there are more niche platforms including Sony Liv, Zee5, voot, Alt Balaji, Eros Now, MX Player and many others who are also competing for the same users. There are regional-specific platforms too, including Hoichoi, Sun NXT and Aha, which focus on content in specific languages. As such, it’s hard for a content player, no matter how vast its content library, to stand out. And by giving away Netflix to anyone for free for a weekend, Netflix is hoping to make inroads in a market that is beginning to increasingly seem oversaturated.