Netflix may offer free weekend access in India to grow subscriber base

Netflix India
Photo by lakshmi Prasad |

Netflix has been conducting various experiments in India in terms of pricing to grow its subscriber base in the price-sensitive market. The streaming major is now planning to offer free access to all non-subscribers for one weekend in the country to attract more users to its platform. This comes at a time when its global rivals like Disney + Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video are quickly adding more subscribers.

“We think that giving 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,” Greg Peters, COO and Chief Product Officer, Netflix, said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

A Netflix spokesperson separately said that the company is looking at different marketing promotions to attract new members and give them a great Netflix experience. 

The company, however, didn’t disclose more information.

The US-based company had previously launched the cheaper mobile-only monthly plan in India and priced it at just under $3 (Rs 199). It also stopped offering the first-month free trial late last year to push its cheaper monthly plan.

Even after launching the cheaper mobile-only plan coupled with various promotional offers, Netflix’s subscriber base has reached just 2.5-2.8 million users in India, while its rivals Disney +Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video have around 10 million subscribers each as per various industry estimates.

Netflix has 195.2 million subscribers globally.

Netflix had previously piloted weekly plans, discounted long-term subscription plans along with free content access to non-members in India for a limited time. It also tested the first-month subscription for just Rs 5 ($0.068) to lure in first-time consumers.

Analysts said that Netflix’s content subscription is costlier compared to its top two rivals in India. The company’s basic plan is still priced at $6.76 (Rs 499) compared to Disney+Hotstar’s annual VIP and Premium plans which are priced at $5.40 (Rs 399) and $20.30 (Rs 1499).  Amazon Prime Video’s annual plan is priced at $13.53 (Rs 999).

Netflix’s other two standard and premium monthly plans are priced at $8.79 (Rs 649) and $10.82 (Rs 799), respectively.

The company, however, experienced an initial jump in subscriber base through its partnership with Bharti Airtel. Under the offer, which ended in January this year, Airtel postpaid users got 3-month complimentary Netflix service.

Netflix recently joined hands with India’s top telecom operator, Reliance Jio, for the latter’s home-broadband service. Additionally, it has partnered with financial institutions in India to make payment processing easier.

The company is increasingly relying on international markets for future growth and seeing India as one of the major drivers. 

A slew of global content service providers entered India, which forced existing content companies and production houses to launch their own services. Analysts said that Reliance Jio’s disruptive entry in 2016 forced rival telco to cut 4G prices and invest heavily in 4G network expansion. This abundant availability of 4G connectivity at cheap rates led to a strong demand for content services in the country.

India’s mobile broadband prices are the lowest in the world.
Asia Pacific region, which 23.5 million subscribers, was the largest contributor to Netflix’s paid membership growth in the quarter ended September, accounting for 46% of the global paid additions during the quarter, the company revealed.

“While this is encouraging, we still have much work to do and we’re working hard to replicate this success in India and other countries,” Netflix said in a letter to its shareholders after the results.

The company is aggressively investing in local content and has earmarked around $410 million (Rs 3,000 crore) by the end of 2020.

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