With cheap data services, mobile handsets and a booming film and TV series industry, competition among OTT platforms is bound to happen. And with homegrown apps — Hotstar, AltBalaji and Voot to name a few — taking over the market with homemade content, American streaming app Netflix, is falling behind the race.
The internationally popular streaming channel, which has never budged on its pricing module, is trying out cheaper mobile-only plans. Priced at Rs 250/month and Rs 65/week, these plans, if rolled out, will be a boon for Indian audiences who are always on a lookout for pocket-friendly services.
Since its inception in 1997, Netflix has expanded to over 190 countries and landed in India in 2016 with a base plan of Rs 500 per month. Although the weekly streaming plans can be a threat to other OTT platforms, trade analyst Amul Mohan feels that other platforms will have their own plans to level the playing field. “There have not been any weekly packs so far. But there are specific plans like the IPL plan by Hotstar or only for footballfootball specific plans like BPL or exclusive packs for English films. Such plans give one platform an edge over the other,” he says.
Film trade analyst, Taran Adarsh, on the other hand, feels if these plans are finalised it would be a win-win situation for both. He says, “They have so much of content on Netflix and if you’re offering content at such an economical and affordable rate, I think it’s definitely going to help grow their reach in India. At the same time, I feel the consumer or the subscriber is going to avail a bouquet of entertainment right in front of their eyes on the cell phones. It’s a win-win situation for both.”
However, OTT platform subscriber Khevna Pandit feels that a mobile-only plan is very restrictive and would prefer another cheaper medium that is flexible across various mediums. She says, “Personally I feel the Rs 250 pack is useless because it restricts you to mobile, but I think freedom to choose your own medium is important. Like if I am on the train I watch content on mobile but at home, I prefer watching on TV. So instead of going for a Rs 250 monthly pack, I would go for Amazon Prime or other streaming channels which gives me that freedom.”
A weekly plan for streaming channels has been unheard of, but Netflix might make it a reality. Expressing his views on the same Amul compares it to YouTube Premium. He says, “If you want to see a film which is half decent on YouTube Premium, that costs around Rs 50 and you can watch it once, but if I can watch two series during a week off for Rs 65 that’s major value for my buck. It’s a good enough idea, I think that will be more popular than their monthly plans.”
For college student Sayonee Mandal, a weekly pack is more practical for people with busy schedules. “A weekly pack will be great because we are not free all the time to watch shows. If I want to watch a particular season of a show and I could binge watch it in a week, then I would go for the weekly pack.”
But a weekly pack can also reduce the number of active subscribers as it gives them a freedom of flexibility and choose a pack as and when they need it. Taran doesn’t feel this would discourage producers from launching their content on Netflix as he feels the content is more important. “It all depends on the content. If people hear that a particular show is good they would definitely watch it. It can’t be like they watch two episodes now and two episodes next week; the show needs to keep them hooked. I feel that even for the common man if the particular show is of interest to them, it keeps them hooked, they would definitely watch it,” says the analyst.
With the launch of Sacred Games as the first Indian Netflix original, the OTT platform has also started releasing various Bollywood films. One such film Rajma Chawal, directed by Leena Yadav was originally intended to have a theatrical release but ended up on Netflix. Explaining the reason behind it, the director says, “We were finishing off the film and we were figuring out our distribution. That’s when Netflix approached us and asked us to release it on their platform. Weighing the pros and cons and the kind of reach Netflix has now, we took the decision because we realised that it would reach more people.” Apart from a wider reach, Leena feels that it cuts back the cost of distribution and adds, “The challenges of a theatrical release are very different these days. You spend so much more money on marketing a film, which doesn’t have a face out there, that attracts the crowds that it gets very difficult.”
Although the new plans being tested by Netflix sound very inviting, according to a statement released by them, “they may never roll out these specific plans beyond the tests.”