Netflix Launches Mobile-Only Plan in India

Hopes move will spur growth in the mobile-first country

Last week, Netflix launched a mobile-only subscription plan priced at 199 rupees (less than $3) per month, tailored to the Indian market. The new subscription will help Netflix compete on price; rival Hotstar’s subscription starts from 199 rupees and Amazon’s Prime costs 129 rupees per month.

Netflix’s new mobile-only plan will work on one smartphone or a tablet at a time. It is hoped that the move will spur growth in India, a large and mobile-first country where many households depend on wireless connectivity for Internet and entertainment.

Netflix has evolved over the years from its humble beginnings as a DVD rental site to a massive streaming platform as well as a producer of original content. The push to widen its audience in India comes a week after Netflix reported lower-than-expected growth in subscribers, especially in the US. It added significantly lower paid subscribers in the second quarter and even lost subscribers in the US for the first time since 2011. Of late, the company is increasingly relying on international markets for its growth.

Indian streaming customers are being offered the world’s cheapest Netflix subscription, as the company tries to capture a bigger slice of the country’s 400 million smartphone users and the more than 600 million Internet users — India is second only to China in the number of web users. There has been an explosion in smartphone usage in India, thanks to lower prices of devices and some of the world’s lowest mobile data prices.

Netflix customers in India watch a higher percentage of videos on their smartphones than anywhere else in the world, and a greater proportion of Indian customers sign up to the platform on a mobile phone than anywhere else, according to the company. To help sustain the momentum, the streaming service is localizing content, having commissioned dozens of Indian original movies and TV shows in recent months as it tries to broaden its reach in the country.

Netflix needs to shore up its customer total as the number of streaming options on the market expands. Disney, Apple, NBCUniversal, AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Dish Network all offer or will soon launch attractive online video offerings. In recent years, India has turned into an arena where video streaming services fight for customers, with more than 30 local and international players battling it out.

Netflix is estimated to currently have less than 2 million subscribers in the country, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings believes India could contribute as many as 100 million users to the platform in the coming years.

This latest move seeks to capitalize on a market in which data consumption on smartphones continues to surge, helped by the assertive pricing of Reliance Jio. The new player has driven strong mobile customer growth that has widened the opportunity for Netflix to target its new mobile service.