Netflix in India: Time to Switch from TVs ?

18-02-2016 My Mobile

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Netflix in India: Time to Switch from TVs ?

The arrival of streaming giant Netflix in India has been hailed by many pundits as a game changer, with some even claiming that it will pose a threat to conventional television. But is it going to be that revolutionary, given the unique conditions of the Indian market and the habits of its consumers? We take a closer look.

For most Indians, television viewing-habits have been more or less the same for years. Yes, we now own a big screen HDTV and an access to a cable TV subscription is what we need to entertain ourselves in the maddening world of 24X7 broadcasting. Now imagine yourself enjoying on-demand television content across multiple screens, without flipping through the TV channels (again and again). Oh yes, you can watch your favorite TV show through the Internet on a smartphone or a tablet—the choice is yours. For the past few months, Indian consumers have been anxiously waiting for U.S-based TV and streaming service Netflix to launch in India. And after years of speculation Netflix confirmed its plans to enter the Indian market, alongside 129 other global markets. So what does the Netflix launch mean for India?

What is Netflix?

U.S-based Netflix is the leading on-demand subscription-based video streaming service. The service is extremely popular with 69.17 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 43 million in the U.S. Through the use of internet, Netflix subscribers can stream and watch a selection of popular TV shows and unlimited movies on a number of supported devices. It is available on PC and Mac through the browser,Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, smart TVs and select Blu-ray players from Samsung and Sony, Apple TV (old and new), media streaming set-top boxes such as Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows Phone devices and Android smartphones and tablets.

How much is it going to cost?

Indians are currently offered a one-month free trial, which then moves to three main monthly subscription fees, based on how many screens you wish to watch on Netflix simultaneously. For Rs. 500 a month, you can stream unlimited movies and TV shows in standard definition across a maximum of one device. At Rs. 650 per month, you can stream content in high definition across two devices. And a premium plan (Rs. 800 per month ), allowing consumers to watch unlimited shows in 4K UHD format, to up to 4 screens. Netflix’s pricing in India is not over the top, particularly in comparison to its US pricing, where the basic monthly subscription plan is the cheapest at $7.99 (approximately Rs. 535). Netflix gives you the freedom to cancel your subscription any time within one month and will also send a reminder two days before the free trial expires.

And what about content…

Does a Netflix subscription mean you have an access to the entire Netflix library? Unfortunately not—Netflix’s most popular shows, as part of its original content, such as House of Cards are still not available in India. House of Cards was licensed to Zee Cafe and is not streaming in India as a result. Many people seem utterly disappointed looking at Netflix’s current lineup of content but it will certainly improve once the service itself gets more popular in the coming days. Nevertheless, at the moment, Netflix still offers a huge library of popular TV shows ( including the likes of Orange Is The New Black, Bloodline, Daredevil and Grace and Frankie, to name a few) and movies from different genres,. To cater to the wide and diverse Indian consumer base, Netflix has added movies in Hindi language. But again, the local content seems limited at the moment. We just hope Netflix will add more local content in the future.

The challenge Netflix faces…

Put simply, Netflix needs to overcome territorial issues and distribution rights, only then can it bring most of its catalogue to India. And of course, the service also needs to focus on creating original content in diverse regional languages, something it lacks at the moment. Poor Internet connectivity could also be a deal breaker for over-the-top (OTT) players, and their ambitions to popularise streaming over internet in India. And then there is the biggest roadblock in Netflix adoption in India: piracy. The prevalence of online piracy discourages the consumer from paying for content. Indians are not used to paying for entertainment services, and in the absence of compelling content, are unlikely to change their ways. All of which of course brings us back to the necessity of Netflix bringing its best content to India.

Netflix has been credited for changing the way we consume television content— and most importantly it opened the door for independent and indie filmmakers to showcase their content to a larger section of population without battling with censorship laws and distribution models. But will it able to replicate its success in India? With competition coming from other over-the-top (OTT) providers and traditional Direct-to-home (DTH) players, and the shadow of piracy looming large, the streaming behemoth has its task well and truly cut out.

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