The entertainment portal has finally arrived in India. But will it change anything?
The reigning king of all entertainment content—Netflix is finally here. And like all things international that arrive in India, it has created quite a furor. The recent launch in the country, that came as a surprise has been part of the company’s ambitious global expansion plan. After observing its popularity in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, it is now available globally in 129 countries—the only big exception to their expansion policy has been China. It has also given new hope to people who have been waiting for HBO and Hulu to consider the Indian market, but we would suggest letting that one hope slide right now. Remember, apple launched iTunes in India but that didn’t get Spotify to sit up and take the hint. Ours is a complex market. We don’t like to pay for things when we can get them for free.
So even with its variety of pricing options, Netflix might have a hard time ahead. Currently, there are three plans that you can sign up for at Rs 500 (basic), Rs 650 (standard) and Rs 800 (premium) per month. The basic plan allows streaming only on one device at a time. The standard plan allows it to work on two screens. The premium plan allows you to stream on multiple devices (up to 4). By paying the fee, you get access to the entire library of content—movies, TV shows etc.
In India, the arrival of Netflix is going to be interesting to observe simply because of the market dynamics involved. For the local market, this might not even be a game changer. Most of the Indian population watches television that they already pay a premium for. Add Rs 500 for extra entertainment and the entire household budget goes for a tizzy. Plus the content might not even have mass appeal. Even though, they do have an Indian section, they do not have content to match up to the international standards or even convince the viewer to subscribe. The television section is completely empty and the movies lack any new releases. Maybe this will change with time, but so far, it does not look exciting.
“I won’t use Netflix because everything is available for free anyway. I am not dying to watch everything when the US watches it. I can wait a little. If I really want to watch it I will stream it online. Basically, this Netflix, is for internet noobs,” says 29-year-old advertising professional Prateek Suri. 30-year-old financier Sharmistha Gupta feels the same way, “No way am I paying money to watch all that I can for free.” This attitude isn’t surprising considering the fact that according to the Alexa ranking of Torrentz.eu, one of the most popular engines for torrents search, India is one of its top markets.
Most Indians have been starved for good television and film content and have been looking online for pirated versions of their favourite shows for year now. It is more of a cultural, need based habit that people openly talk about and share. “Wait till House of Cards or Narco start. Everybody will be on it,” says 27-year-old dentist Rashi Aggarwal, one of the few who has already downloaded the app, “the most exciting thing for me is the convenience and the fact that I am getting to watch uncensored versions of everything,” she says. Whether the content will stay the same or will be edited, only time will tell. But we know for sure now that the arrival of Netflix is not going to change much in India, except maybe make it easier for you to stay in on weekends and binge watch almost every show that you ever wanted to. Too bad Fargo and Game of Thrones will still not be on the list.