Since early 2020, OTT subscriptions have risen, thanks to COVID-19

Netflix and the Curse of India

Netflix aims to reach 100 MM subscribers in India alone. In order to get there, a lot more than FREE WEEKENDS is required!

The demand for OTT platforms in India, thanks to everyone being forced indoors due to the pandemic, has increased since the beginning of 2020. According to Statista, there are over 287 MM OTT subscribers in India. Since the lockdown, according to a report by Inc42:

- The average time spent by Indian users on OTT platforms has increased by 30–60% since early March.

- The online content consumption in India grew 35% in April 2020 compared to January 2020

Even though hotels and restaurants have reopened, but remain desolate, social distancing and work from home continue to prevail, demand for OTT will continue to increase. Movies have started releasing on OTTs and will continue to, till a vaccine is available.

Over the past year or so, two new OTT segments in India have emerged as well:

- Between March and November 2019, around 30 MM internet users came online for the first time from rural areas.

- Around 71 MM users (out of a total of 504 MM internet users) in the age bracket of five to 11 years use internet services on devices owned by family members.

Zooming in on the video OTT subscription scenario in India: the market is forecasted to reach upwards of a $1 BN in India. Major players like Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, etc. are already gearing up to capture large parts of the revenue. Disney+ recently announced a change in strategy to streamline focus towards content creation as well!

Netflix, on the other hand, has a lot of catching up to do. Till 2019, as per Atlas, it only had a 5% market share in India. Even though the share increased to 20% in Q2, 2020 (a lot of it has to do with people being home during the lockdown), it has to do a lot more to catch up to their ambitious aim of having 100 MM subscribers in India, alone! They are estimated to have about 2 million at the moment.

Interestingly, in the Asia Pacific region, the average monthly revenue per membership of Netflix, since Q1 of 208 has fallen from $9.37 to $8.94 in Q1 of 2020. It is due to Netflix is doing a lot to penetrate markets like India.

To drive subscriptions in India, they did give its new subscribers free access (as a test) the past weekend, and may even look to increase the number of free weekends. There may be a sudden spurt in subscribers, but the success of the free weekends will depend upon how many the platform manages to eventually retain.

But is this enough? In the long run, no! Here’s why:

Price sensitivity

It’s no surprise to anyone that India is a price-sensitive country.

Recent actions indicate that Netflix may increase prices, given the removal of the free 30-day trial and an increase in prices in Canada — standard plans by C$1 and premium plans by C$2. However, the idea of increasing prices in India may do more harm than good!

Most other video OTT subscriptions in India are priced between $1.25 — $2.5 a month, or $13.5 — $25 a year, with access to HD and 4K content. Netflix is priced at $6.75 for the Basic plan (480p resolution).

If Netflix is to achieve its ambitions in India, they need to pay attention to this aspect the most. Pricing is the key factor for not being able to grow in the world’s fastest-growing economy.


If the content is available for free, why pay for it — that’s the common mentality here.

Unfortunately for Netflix, all their content can be looked upon the internet (even via illegal torrents or sites) for free.

Sports and local channels

India loves local, news, and sports channels and this is where SonyLIV and Hotstar win.

Hotstar gains a lot of advertising revenue and viewers during the IPL (currently ongoing till November 10). Plus, they have a host of other international tournaments of different sports on their platform.

Regional Content

People prefer watching a lot of regional content on OTT platforms. Unfortunately for Netflix, Prime and Hotstar are outnumbering them.

Netflix has to focus more on regional content creation as much as it focuses on creating English and Hindi content for the Indian audience.

And let’s not forget the old legacy content that India loves so much! ZEE and Hotstar (Star) have all their channels on their platforms, so all the popular superhit shows like daily soaps in Hindi Tamil and Telugu — that were only available through the cable — are now available for streaming throughout the day.

Till now, Netflix got a lot of subscribers because of its brand name in India, or worldwide. But at this pace, if it aspires for growth, especially with India a key focus, they need to understand the meaning of “Act Global, Think Local” and optimize their offerings for India, including creating MORE content, else they’re in for trouble!

They ALSO need to remember that Indians don’t care about ‘premium’, they care about ‘value for money’!

What do you think Netflix can do to succeed in India?

PS: Not to forget, Netflix ID sharing is pretty rampant in India. One person buys a $11 premium pack and shares it with his friends and family!

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