India boasts of a longstanding film culture and enjoys high internet access rates thanks to affordable and high-speed broadband. Coupled with the fact that it has a vast population of over 1.3 billion people (second only to China) and English as its second official language, India makes for a very lucrative market for online streaming services like Netflix. Yet it seems that the streaming pioneer still has trouble establishing a formidable presence in the country.
Netflix tries to reach out to Indian market
Netflix is often regarded as the frontrunner in the US and European market, having paved the way for other streaming services. Subsequently, it possesses both the technical know-how to rise to the challenge and the budget needed to penetrate the Indian market. While its content is predominantly Hollywood-oriented, it features several Bollywood blockbusters, showcasing actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, while it is also keen on representation of Indian-Americans. So why has it not have achieved the numbers it was hoping for with its Indian audience? One reason is somewhat mundane and simple: money. The range of Netflix subscriptions costs more than other heavy names in the industry.
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These include India’s leading streaming service Hotstar and Amazon Prime, the latter of which includes several other perks with its subscription, which may have boosted its numbers. This is why in February 2020 Netflix launched a limited-time promotion, cutting prices by as much as 50% for customers committing to at least three months on the platform. This is a marketing tool used frequently across several industries: gyms offer discounts for members going for yearly rather than monthly plans, different types of companies - from coffee houses to newspapers- will provide part of their product for free for customers signing up to loyalty schemes, while a no deposit bonuses casino will allow newcomers to play for free to test the waters.
Why is Hostar still the frontrunner?
Yet cutting prices might not prove the saving grace Netflix is hoping for. India-spun Hotstar, which is currently dominating the market at triple Netflix’s percentage, has become a household name and relies on that to keep it moving. The service not only features India-specific content, having launched its own original Indian series, but is also able to broadcast them in seven regional languages. More importantly, it has also managed to snatch up the rights for extremely popular TV series.
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Being part of Disney+, Hotstar has privileged access to Disney and 21st Century Fox content, while it has also negotiated exclusive rights over beloved HBO and Showtime titles – including pop culture phenomenon Game of Thrones. With such an attractive package offered, many Indians are reluctant to stray from the streaming pioneer. And most of them would have to stray in order to be able to afford Netflix: as many Indian viewers rely on their smartphones for entertainment, they have to budget in data costs for streaming before deciding to branch out to a second or third streaming subscription.
This leaves Netflix in a dire position, as for most people Hotstar remains the clear first choice for them – with no room for second. Whether Netflix will be able to reverse these dynamics with clever marketing, it remains to be seen.