Netflix brings free streaming option for Indian viewers

Netflix already runs the cheapest subscription plan globally in India.

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After coming up with mobile-specific rate card for Indian viewers, online streaming service Netflix has taken a leaf from its competitors playbook such as Hotstar and Reliance-backed ALT Balaji. It’s testing a free streaming service with its recent release, ‘Bard of Blood’ that will be limited to a few episodes, Entrackr reported.

Interestingly, Hotstar has already broadcasted its selective shows for free to its subscribers, while ALT Balaji that streams web-series in regional language also streams its first episode of any show for free. In global markets, Netflix has streamed its exclusive Spanish web series ‘Elite’, with the first episode for free, in Mexico and Colombia last month.

The free goody by Netflix in India is to attract new viewers, who it expects will watch the premiere episode of the new spy-thriller series and subscribe to watch other episodes. As other video streaming services gain pace in the country, Netflix knows India is the last massive bastion in terms of the market size, especially since China has blocked most of the streaming services. Hence, it is aggressively trying to wean away Indian viewers from its arch rivals Amazon and Hotstar with attractive pricing and original content.

“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon. So we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix chief content officer, Theodore Sarandos, said on an analyst call post the Q2 results in July this year.

In July this year, Netflix had announced a low-cost mobile-only plan priced at USD 2.8 per month making this offer its cheapest subscription plan world-wide. Currently, one can access Netflix for free for the first 30 days of one’s engagement with it, however, this is the first time that an episode is being streamed for free to all non-subscribers.

According to Statista, an online portal for statistics, the number of subscribers in India for Hotstar is at 63 million, while Amazon Prime clocked 9.5 million, and Netflix stood at 4.2 million, as of January 2017. A report by management consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group, expects India’s video streaming market to reach USD 5 billion by 2023 up from the USD 500 million market value last year.

In 2018, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, “The next 100 million subscribers for us is coming from India.” It remains to be seen whether this wish of Netflix could be just a pipe dream in the midst of competition from at least 30 other existing platforms including Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Times Internet owned-MX Player, ALTBalaji, and Reliance Jio.