Source: LiveMint.com, Dec 23, 2019
Netflix Inc. and its rivals are facing a price war in India as a jump in the cost of watching video on mobile phones threatens to slow demand in what is shaping up as a key growth market globally for streaming.
The country’s three wireless carriers hiked data tariffs by as much as 41% earlier this month, leaving some customers in India, where most streaming is done on phones, with less to spend on entertainment services like Netflix, Apple Inc.’s TV+ service — which debuted there last month — and those of local competitors.
Cheap broadband, a well-established film culture and a vast English-speaking population have helped make India a lucrative streaming battleground, with Netflix targeting 100 million subscribers in the country, almost 25 times the customer base as of this year. But an increase in data costs, coupled with a wider slowdown in the economy, could make customers more sensitive to how much they pay for content, just as players like Apple and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime try to dig a foothold in the market.
“This is a challenge that will affect growth, as the mobile data boom has been a big factor driving adoption in India,” said Utkarsh Sinha, managing director of Bexley Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused early-stage deals in tech and media. “The Indian user has largely used data like running water without thought.”
Netflix is already trying to get ahead of the move, slashing prices by as much as half for subscribers that commit to at least three months. Most of the country’s streaming services, including Apple TV+, Amazon Prime and Walt Disney Co.’s Hotstar have also offered discount deals this year and subscriptions at prices well below those in other markets.
Apple’s new TV+ service, for example, sells for about $1.40 a month in India, compared with about $5 in the U.S. and Japan.
Spokespeople for Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Hotstar in India declined to comment.
“As all platforms become equally competitive on content, pricing will be a key lever to pull to draw in customers and encourage churn,” said Sinha. “Netflix has introduced an India-only price, and Amazon is already subsidizing its Prime offering through a package deal.”
The price pressures add to what is already a cutthroat streaming market, with some 30 operators hawking online video services in the country of 1.3 billion people. Viu, a smaller streaming player run by Hong Kong-based PCCW Ltd.’s media arm, recently decided to exit the market because it lacks the cash to challenge bigger rivals, India’s Economic Times reported Dec. 16, citing an executive it didn’t name at Viu.Read the rest of this entry »