Netflix widened accessibility and attracted newer audiences after the streaming platform rolled out its first mobile-only plan in India in 2019 and then slashed prices across all subscription categories by as much as 60 percent in December, a top company official said.
The platform is headed in the direction of a large audience size, said Monika Shergill, vice-president of content at Netflix India.
Netflix was estimated to have about 5.5 million subscribers in India at the end of 2021, according to a Media Partners Asia (MPA) report.
New plans, new audiences
“The mobile plan increased access dramatically for us,” Shergill told Moneycontrol. “Then, at the right time, we were ready to increase the access when we increased local production. The mobile plan has been successful and the plan has been introduced in Southeast Asian countries. What we did in India is being replicated in other countries.”
The streaming service, which launched the mobile plan at Rs 199 per month, had said more people in India signed up for Netflix on their mobile phones than in any other country. The mobile plan fee was reduced to Rs 149 per month last year.
“In December, the rejig of price plans was with the same intent,” Shergill said.
From the content strategy perspective, Netflix bought films like Gangubai Kathiawadi, RRR, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, and Sooryavanshi and programmed series like Fame Game, Aranyak, The Kapil Sharma Show and Mai.
“We are headed in the direction of a large audience size. So, increasing accessibility is part of the strategy and price rejigging was part of the plan and we have gotten a new audience set which is constantly growing as we bring these titles. These titles have mass appeal,” she said.
The platform’s content head said that Gangubai Kathiawadi and RRR were two of the biggest films to date on Netflix.
“Gangubai Kathiawadi has crossed 50 million watch hours and RRR in five weeks has crossed 47 million watch hours. They are the most-watched films to date,” said Shergill.
While Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi was on the top 10 list in 47 countries and on the top 10 list of non-English movies, RRR entered the top 10 list in 62 countries.
Shergill noted that the two films drew viewership from the Indian diaspora and international audiences.“About two-thirds of RRR viewing came from outside India,” she said.
Netflix plans to get more movies after their theatrical release as well as original films on the platform in the coming months.
“We have a strong slate, in terms of both post-theatrical and originals. Films are a big priority for us as 80 percent of our viewership base watches a film every week. Film viewing is the highest in India,” she said.
The original movie slate includes Alia Bhatt’s debut movie as a producer Darlings and also Monica O My Darling.
The platform launched 28 originals in 2021 and plans to increase the number of originals this year.
Shergill said newer audiences are sampling the service because of the new content titles.
“India as a market within the universe of Netflix is one of the most robustly growing markets. We are on an upward trajectory, with strong growth momentum,” she said.
According to analysts, Netflix has a 30 percent share in India’s streaming subscription market, which is the highest, followed by Disney+ Hotstar with a 22 percent share, ZEE5 with 6 percent, and SonyLIV and Sun NXT with 4 percent each.
Experts said that while overall subscription revenue in India has increased 50 percent, Netflix has grown 60 percent, with the platform registering Rs 1,500 crore in subscription revenue last year. However, the price cuts will slow down subscription revenue growth, analysts said.
To offset the impact of price cuts, Netflix will have to add more subscribers, MPA executive director Vivek Couto said in a recent interview to Bloomberg.
He noted that Netflix will need to add 20-30 million more subscribers in India for revenue to be more meaningful.
Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings said recently that lack of success in the Indian market was frustrating, but that the company is leaning in there. Asia-Pacific accounts for 15 percent of Netflix’s 221.6 million global subscribers and the region is expected to be the biggest driver of expansion.“The Indian market is growing bigger. This is the investment phase for us in India,” said Shergill.