Is India the answer to Netflix's troubles?

Monday - 29/07/2019 10:43
Netflix has launched its cheapest subscription plan - a mobile-only service for Indian users. The BBC's Joe Miller finds out if India can solve the company's financial woes.

In his 20 years as an entertainment journalist, Rohit Khilnani has seen hundreds of Bollywood stars vie for the attention of India's gigantic film and TV audience. But it was the unexpected appearance of Brad Pitt at a Mumbai hotel in 2017 that made him realise America was serious about getting in on the act.

Pitt was among the first US stars to promote a movie - in person - in India. Christian Bale and Will Smith followed closely on his heels. Strangely, they weren't the emissaries of giant studios such as Warner Brothers or Sony. Instead, they had come at the behest of a new media titan - Netflix.

The California-based streaming giant's interest in India was put into sharper focus last week, after it reported a loss of 126,000 paying customers in the US, its home market. 

As Netflix's stratospheric stock price took a dive, the company also announced a cheaper, mobile-only subscription plan in India. At 199 rupees ($2.8; £2.2) a month, it's priced to make inroads into a country, which chief executive Reed Hastings has half-seriously suggested could be the source of Netflix's "next 100 million" subscribers.

But despite pouring money into Indian-made and original titles such as Sacred Games, Chopsticks and Lust Stories, Netflix's footprint in India is relatively small. 

In a country of 1.3 billion people, it's estimated that the company has between four and six million customers. By comparison, the homegrown (but Disney-owned) rival Hotstar boasts 300 million monthly active users, according to consulting firm RedSeer.

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 Keywords: Netflix, India

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