In India Netflix slashes prices 60 percent as it seeks viewers

It has struggled to gain traction with highly price-conscious Indian consumers, the biggest overseas prize.

In 2018, Netflix said India could deliver its next 100 million subscribers [File: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg]

Netflix has slashed the prices of its streaming services in India, for the first time since launching five years ago in the South Asian nation, as it moves to better compete with fierce rivals Disney and Amazon.

The streaming giant cut prices on Tuesday by 60 percent, to 199 Indian rupees ($2.62) a month, for its basic plan that lets users watch content on a single device, it said in a blogpost.

The price of its mobile-only plan will drop a quarter to 149 rupees ($1.96), with overall prices of various plans falling 18 percent to 60 percent.

The new prices were the “real ‘Money Heist'”, Netflix said in its announcement, using the name of one of its popular television shows, but without giving any rationale for them.

The entertainment giant has struggled to gain traction with highly price-conscious Indian consumers, who represent the biggest overseas prize for streaming platforms.

Netflix has won just an estimated five million customers in the country, compared with the 46 million who subscribe to the Disney Hotstar platform and 19 million to Amazon Prime Video, according to researcher Media Partners Asia, which estimates India will have one billion video screens by 2024 with 85 percent broadband usage.

The new prices will make the streaming service “more accessible” to Indian audiences, said Monika Shergill, vice president for content at Netflix India.

Intensified competition

For years, Netflix priced its products far above competitors in India such as Disney and Amazon, citing the much higher income of households that spoke English and watched entertainment in the language.

The latest round of price revision is expected to intensify that competition as most of India’s streaming services, including Google, ZEE5, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime and Disney have also offered discount deals and subscriptions at prices well below those in other international markets.

The Netflix move reflects its effort to target expansion beyond the biggest cities, said an entertainment industry analyst who sought anonymity.

“To capture this market, it needs to bring down” costs, added the analyst, based in the financial capital of Mumbai, as the firm competes with big rivals.

Amazon Prime Video charges 179 rupees ($2.36) a month but, unlike Netflix, it allows users to simultaneously watch content on multiple devices from the same account, and offers a cheaper annual payment plan.

Disney + Hotstar offers an annual premium plan with access to all its content in 4K at 1,499 rupees ($19.76).

Disney + Hotstar made up a little less than 40 percent of the total subscriber base of 116 million of Disney+, the company said in an earnings call this year. Netflix and Amazon do not reveal their figures by country, however.

“The most meaningful reduction is the basic price plan which opens up the funnel for significant new customer growth,” said Mihir Shah, vice president and head of India at Media Partners Asia. “It will also mean that they will have to go deeper – local and more regional in their content.”

In 2018, Netflix said India could deliver its next 100 million subscribers.

At the time, Chief Executive Reed Hastings had told Reuters news agency in an interview that the company had no plans to lower its prices in India, adding, “We don’t have a pricing issue.”

Netflix has previously said 2021 will be its biggest year in India, with the release of more than 40 new titles, among them films featuring top Bollywood actors, stand-up comedy shows and original series.

Source: News Agencies