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Why the Netflix mobile-only plan for India is a big deal

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Sahil Gupta is the founder and editor of warpcore. He has spent his entire career in mainstream media including stints at Gadgets 360, BGR India, India Today and more recently the Times of India Group where he led international franchise publications like Gizmodo India, PCMag India, TechRadar India and TechSpot India. Apart from having deep insight into consumer electronics trends and tech, he's also a music aficionado and pioneered the concept of thematic indie music events in New Delhi, India's capital. warpcore is a culmination of his career which has been spent on the intersection of technology and music.

Earlier in the day, Netflix announced its long-awaited mobile-only plan which it had been testing for a couple of months. This plan was also announced a couple of weeks ago at its quarterly report. But when it dropped today, it came with a twist. This plan is critical to the future of Netflix as its growth slows down in developing markets thanks to growing competition and its model struggles on developing markets like India which also aren’t as profitable. 

What’s the new plan 

  • The plan starts at Rs 199 per month which is lower than the originally expected Rs 250 price point.
  • This is only a standard definition plan which means no HD or Full HD resolutions will be supported. 
  • Another limitation of this plan is that it will only allow a single concurrent stream unlike some of the other Netflix plans. 
  • Users can’t cast the content on to a bigger screen which is a feature available in the other plans.
  • This mobile-only experience works with both smartphones and tablets which is good news for people who own budget tablets.
  • Netflix also supports downloads which it believes to be central to a mobile-first experience. 

Why is Netflix doing this 

  • In India, most users are signing up and also using Netflix just on smartphones which makes this an obvious move for the streaming giant.
  • Netflix is struggling to compete with OTT services like Hotstar, Prime Video, Jio TV which don’t only have more local content and is affordable. 
  • Netflix lost more than 130,000 users in the US in the last quarter which was a first in its history. As the streaming wars heat up, Netflix is losing syndicated content from publishers who are now trying to compete with it with their own streaming platforms. 

Does this plan solve Netflix’s problems 

  • This does make Netflix’s chances better in India as it is a price-sensitive market the Rs 199 starting point makes look competitive vs Prime Video and Hotstar. 
  • The bigger issue is content and this doesn’t address it. Netflix hasn’t had a global hit since Stranger Things which debuted 3 years ago. Netflix needs a global franchise as an original ASAP.
  • Netflix has lost rights to iconic Marvel shows, all movies in highly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and iconic sitcoms like Friends and the Office. What’s worse is most of this content is going to a Netflix rival in India.
  • While Sacred Games and Delhi Crime have been brooding hits for the local Indian audience, Netflix’s India content isn’t scaling as well as what Disney owned  Hotstar which just during the cricket world cup broke the world record for the highest number of concurrent streams.
  • The Rs 199 plan isn’t great value to be exactly as it comes with a handful of compromises like the SD resolution, no casting and only one concurrent stream.

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