Netflix tests trial in India for pennies as Disney+ gets ready to launch


Netflix is looking to build its presence in India, one of the world’s largest potential markets for video, offering the first month of a subscription for less than 7 cents. The almost-free trial converts to a mobile-only plan for $2.78 for subsequent months, $6.96 for a single screen and $11.15 for a premium plan that includes four screens.

The trial follows on the heels of a one-month free trial Netflix offered through December of last year.

Netflix is struggling to establish a beachhead in India, and is facing a raft of competition, notably Disney’s Hotstar, which offers everything from Indian and American TV shows and movies to live cricket for just $13.95 a year, or, on a monthly basis, about $4.18/mo.

Disney poised to roll out Disney Plus Hotstar March 29

Disney is planning to deploy its Disney+ streaming service to India next month. The company will lean on Hotstar, which it acquired as part of its deal with Fox, to help it launch March 29.

The launch of “Disney Plus Hotstar” is significant because it coincides with the annual India Premier League (IPL) cricket season streamed live by Hotstar, which generated 100M+ concurrent streaming users last year.

Launching Disney Plus Hotstar in just two months is going to really test Disney+ tech chops, following on the heels of it European expansion. But the IPL tie in is just too hard to resist.

But the biggest hurdle DIsney+ has is local content and, interestingly, brand awareness. The Star Wars franchise doesn’t carry the punch it has in the US. But Disney believes The Mandalorian will capture viewers in international markets. Disney plans to offer more local content and to dub its library to local dialects – much of it anyway.

The company has yet to release its pricing plan, beyond saying it will have two tiers, a premium version with the entire library of original programming and a more basic one with library content priced for the market.

Like Netflix when it launched, the premium side will be looking to attract 10-15% of India’s top earners.

The bottom line

India’s video market is tough because of growing competition, but it has so much potential, and mobile plays a huge role.

It supplies Netflix and Amazon each with 30 million subs. That’s a fraction of Hotstar’s 300 million monthly users, but the higher price point for each service is still producing substantial revenues. Is that enough to keep them competing for share?

Disney’s tie in to Hotstar will be an interesting test, one that already has some analysts  saying it’ll drive Disney subscriptions past Netflix. I don’t agree. Will the price be low enough to attract a general audience? Or will it target consumers with higher disposable income? Will it resonate with Hotstar subscribers? Will they be willing to shell out more for another service?

More questions than answers at this point.

If Disney Plus Hotstar gets a warm reception, it could be a blueprint for following international deals.

In the US, Disney saw about 50% of Disney+ subscriptions come from partners like Verizon and Apple. The other 50% came from a more lucrative D2C sale it likely won’t be able to replicate in most markets.

As for Netflix, what do you think the endgame is? Does it stay satisfied with a slice of India’s top earners? Or does it look to become more?

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn