OTT Players Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLIV Make Easy Offerings To Increase Subscriber Base

Many of over- the- top (OTT) players are aiming at increasing their subscriber base and looking to make their services easier for users. Two way stratagies exist for this- offer  packages for shorter tenures — durations of even less than a month — and also allow consumers to buy subscriptions to select content. 

Consider this: Netflix has recently rolled out weekly and monthly ‘mobile-only’ plans starting at Rs 65 per week and Rs 250 per month for select mobile users. The new monthly plan is 50% cheaper than its current basic plan of Rs 500, but still expensive when compared to its rivals — Amazon Prime Video costs Rs 129 per month across screens while Hotstar Premium, which has global studio content, is available for subscribers at Rs 199 per month.

In March, Hotstar launched Hotstar VIP at Rs 365 per year, priced much lower than its existing Hotstar Premium  service at Rs 999 per year, the key differentiating factor by the former being originals and sports content offered. Another player SonyLiv, which has a monthly plan of Rs 99, is also testing seven-day, 15-day and daily plans.

The cheaper plans strategy is not restricted to national OTT content. In December, last year, ZEE5 launched regional packs in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada starting at Rs 49 per month — a similar price offering to Sun NXt, which has content in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Sun NXt has a quarterly subscription plan of Rs 130.

The domestic OTT space is driven by AVOD or a freemium model currently, with only 2-2.4 million subscribers having directly subscribed to OTT platforms, in addition to those who are considered paid subscribers through telco-based access, as per a KPMG 2018 report.

In such a scenario, the reduction in pack prices and shorter duration plans are expected to help players mop up subscription revenues and improve bottomline, say experts. According to KPMG partner and head (media and entertainment) Girish Menon, at present, the ad revenues are not enough to sustain the bottomline and recover the cost of content, marketing and distribution.

While advertising will remain a key source of revenues for OTT players in India, currently YouTube and Facebook account for 70% of overall digital advertising revenue. OTT players, barring those purely on SVoD platforms such as ALTBalaji, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hoichoi, are chasing the remaining 30% of the video advertising pie, indicating that players need to look beyond traditional advertising models to improve unit economics.

“With such price reductions and pack duration rationalising, OTT players are looking to expand their paid subscriber bases. Over time, these will graduate to higher priced packs and improve the bottomline,” says Menon. “For long-term sustainability, subscription is very critical,” he adds.

In India, unlike the West, OTT has a premium positioning compared with cable TV, but that could be changing with players launching lower value packs. For example, the benchmark entertainment cost in the US is $100 for a cable connection while Netflix is available for just $15. On the contrary, the wallet share available for in-house entertainment in India is around Rs 500. “With average cable bills of around Rs 300-400, consumers are left with lesser entertainment budgets to spend on OTT. So, there is pressure on pricing in the OTT space,” says Pixights Consulting co-founderSumit Saxena.

The average revenue per users (Arpu) in the SVoD (subscription video on demand) space is expected to be around $1-$2 (approximately Rs 100). “It is expected to increase to $2.5 (Rs 175) in a few years. However, for the ad supported model, Arpu will be much lower,” says The Boston Consulting Group principal Gaurav Jindal.

Small-value packs could help in hooking impulse users and in the sampling of content. “Most broadcasters in the OTT space have strong partnerships with advertisers. So, it is not very difficult to get advertising even for original content,” says Uday Sodhi, business head, digital business, Sony Pictures Networks India, which owns the digital streaming platform SonyLiv. “The idea behind lower value packs and putting paywalls for premium content is not just to recover cost, but to also induce the habit of paying amongst consumers.”

ZEE5, which partnered with Rail Yatri in November last year for its one-week sachet packs, is currently offering its annual subscription plan at a discounted price of Rs 349, and reported 56.3 MAUs (monthly active users) in December. “We are giving offers, creating partner associations, wallet integrations and personalising packages for regional users,” says ZEE5 India business head Manish Aggarwal .

In fact, with the Hotstar VIP subscription, Hotstar has gone a step further and launched a cash on delivery equivalent in the OTT space. Hotstar’s subscription revenue stood at Rs 192 crore for FY18 compared with a higher advertising revenue of Rs 315 crore. The market leader continues to remain in the red and losses for 2017-18 were at Rs 389 crore while overall revenues stood at Rs 571 crore, as per RoC data.

Apple Likely To Launch An OTT Service

Apple is likely to launch a series of new products at its Cupertino headquarters in California today. This also includes an OTT service, a competitor of Netflix including revamped news service and a subscription-based gaming offering.

The event, to be hosted at the Steve Jobs theatre on campus, will herald a new era for the iPhone maker as it enters the fast-growing global content streaming market.

“Apple has been looping a video from the theatre, teasing its focus on television,” reports The Verge.

The livestreaming video is stylised to look like a television set, and has been switching between a handful of different angles of the Steve Jobs theatre.

Apple has invested over $1 billion into making new content and the streaming service is set to compete with the giants including Amazon, Netflix and Hulu.

“The company is building a new content store focused on offering bundles with cable services like HBO, Showtime and Starz. Put more simply, Apple may be looking to disrupt cable TV by essentially becoming a cable TV provider,” adds the report.

Apple has been working on developing original content like “Amazing Stories” by Steven Spielberg; crime show “Are You Sleeping?” produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Octavia Spencer; “Calls” which is an adaptation of a French short-form series; “Central Park” which is an animated musical comedy from Loren Bouchard and “Defending Jacob” — a thriller adapted from William Landay’s novel, starring Chris Evans, among others.

According to TechCrunch, another Apple project is “Shantaram” — a series based on the novel by Gregory David Robert, about a man who escapes from an Australian prison and ends up in Bombay (now Mumbai).

There is also an untitled M. Night Shyamalan series and untitled Oprah Winfrey projects, among others.

Netflix Cancels Marvel’s Daredevil for Season 4

Acclaimed Marvel series Daredevil will not be returning to Netflix for a fourth season. Despite garnering critical acclaim and fans globally, the show has been cancelled by Netflix. But there is some respite for its followers. According to a report by Deadline, Daredevil’s remaining seasons will be streamed on Disney’s own, soon-to-launch streaming service.

Before Daredevil, Marvel shows previously cancelled on Netflix include Iron Fist and Luke Cage. “Marvel’s Daredevil will not return for a fourth season on Netflix,” Netflix told Deadline. “We are tremendously proud of the show’s last and final season and although it’s painful for the fans, we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note…We’re thankful to our partners at Marvel, showrunner Erik Oleson, the show’s writers, stellar crew and incredible cast including Charlie Cox as Daredevil himself, and we’re grateful to the fans who have supported the show over the years,” it added.

Now the only two Marvel TV series that remain on Netflix are Jessica Jones and The Punisher. While Netflix is yet to announce anything concrete with regard to their future on the streaming site, it seems likely that all Marvel productions will now shift base from Netflix to Disney’s streaming service.

For those wondering about the future of the existing three seasons of Daredevil, you need not worry as Netflix told Deadline that the first three seasons of the show will remain on the streaming site for posterity.

“While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel,” Netflix said.

Netflix to make series on Roald Dahl books

Netflix Inc said it will adapt celebrated British children’s author Roald Dahl’s books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” as animation series.

The streaming company said it signed an agreement with the Roald Dahl Story Co, but did not disclose the financial terms.

The other titles include “The BFG”, “The Twits” and “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”, Netflix said in a statement, adding that the production will begin in 2019.

The company, which had kept aside $8 billion to create original content in 2018, has already spent $6.9 billion on TV shows and movies by the end of its third quarter.

Netflix had 137 million subscribers to its movie and TV streaming service worldwide as of September end.

Netflix: Indians Pay more but get Less number of Movies compared to Japanese and Canadians

Although lower than major markets like the US, UK and European countries, video streaming platform Netflix is priced higher in India than 9 other countries, including Japan and Canada. According to a research report by Comparitech.com, Netflix’s India monthly subscription plan, which begins from Rs 500, is the 10th cheapest among a list of 24 countries.

A country-by-country comparison of Netflix subscription plans shows that the cheapest place to watch Netflix is Turkey. At a monthly cost of just $3.27, it is almost 60% cheaper than the US and UK. Turkey is followed by Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Colombia and Canada. “In fact, on a cost-per-month basis, the US and UK don’t fare too well, with the US ranking as the 26th cheapest place and the UK as the 25th. This is probably due to Netflix using the US, UK, Canada et. all to subsidize its growth elsewhere,” the report said.

The size of the Netflix library also varies from country to country. Due to its extensive library of anime, Japan has the largest number of movies and shows — about 6,000.

India, on the other hand, gets about 5,000 Netflix titles, out of which about 3,500 are movies.

The subscription plan of Netflix, which has already made a profit of Rs 20 lakh in its second year of India operations, has been debated as two of its closest competitors — Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar — have much cheaper plans costing Rs 999 per year.

The world’s No.1 OTT platform, which has announced that it has no plans to lower subscription rates in India, is however going to test mobile-only plan in some countries like Malaysia. If the mobile-only subscription plan works out in India, then the entry-level subscription plan may automatically become cheaper. The existing basic plan for Netflix, priced at Rs 500 per month, allows a subscriber to watch movies and shows on laptop, phone, tablet and even TV.

Netflix India has 5 web series and a feature film scheduled soon for release. The web series comprises sports drama Selection Day co-produced by actor Anil Kapoor arriving in December; feminist drama Leila directed by Deepa Mehta, adaptations of books Midnight’s Children and Bard of Blood—the latter stars Emraan Hashmi and is co-produced by Shah Rukh Khan—and Baahubali:Before the Beginning, a spin-off of the iconic film franchise. A feature film called Rajma Chawal directed by Leena Yadav will also stream soon.

Mowgli, The Legend of the Jungle: Kareena Kapoor, Christian Bale, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit at the Screening

Andy Serkis directorial Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle begins streaming on Netflix from December 7. While the international voice cast of the film boasts of names like Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett, the Hindi cast has been chosen with great detail too. Anil Kapoor voices Baloo in the Hindi version of the film.

At the Hindi trailer launch of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Anil discussed his process of giving voice to the character. “It was an honour for me that I was approached to do Baloo’s character and when I saw portions of the film, I found it was definitely more textured, more layered and definitely much more exciting.”

In the English version of the film, director Andy Serkis has voiced Baloo himself. Anil Kapoor found his work inspiring and shared that whenever he would feel stuck at any point, he would go back and listen to Andy’s version over and over again. “I have to be very honest that whenever I got stuck, I would hear his voice again and again and understand what he must be thinking while performing,” Anil shared.

Abhishek Bachchan was present at the trailer launch too. He voices Bagheera in the film while Christian Bale voices the same character in the English version. Bachchan shared that Serkis’ version is the most honest retelling of Kipling’s book. He shared that the appeal of the text is such that it works with every age.

“What’s wonderful about the story that Kipling wrote is that it appeals to every age group through time. When I was a kid in the early 80s and when we watched The Jungle Book (the animated Disney film), our favourite character was Baloo because he was the fun-loving guy and as a kid you like that. But as you grow older, your choices change and as an adult, you prefer a character like Bagheera because he represents certain responsibilities and values. So what’s really nice is that whatever stage of your life you watch this film or read the story, there is something for everyone. There’s great sense of values, morals, principles, learnings, teachings that you can imbibe and take away,” Abhishek said.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is the first big Netflix film that hosted its premiere in India on Sunday. The films starts streaming on December 7.

Netflix Tests Cheaper $4 mobile-only Subscription plan in Malaysia

Netflix Inc is testing a mobile-only subscription plan in Malaysia priced at roughly half its current basic plan in the country, the global leader in video streaming said on Wednesday. Netflix’s mobile only plan costs just 17 Malaysian ringgit ($4.05) a month, compared to its Basic plan which costs 33 ringgit ($7.87).

The company declined to give additional details about which countries it was testing in.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings on Friday quashed speculation that the streaming video company would cut prices for the hotly competitive India market but other officials have suggested it could trial cheaper plans in small markets.

“We are testing to understand consumer interest in a mobile-only plan in some countries,” Netflix said in an emailed response to Reuters questions.

“Generally, we try out lots of new ideas at any given time, and they can vary in how long they last and who sees them. We may not ever roll out the features or elements included in a test.”

Research firm Statista estimates that Netflix has 132,000 subscribers in Malaysia, making it one of the smallest markets for the streaming giant.

Amazon prime Video, Netflix Sued over streaming Obscene content in India

The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking framing of guidelines to regulate the functioning of online media streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao made it clear that it was not issuing notice on the petition but was only seeking the government’s response on the plea which also alleged that the online media streaming platforms show “uncertified, sexually explicit and vulgar” content.

The court listed the petition by NGO Justice for Rights Foundation for further hearing in February next year.

In its plea filed through advocate Harpreet S Hora, the NGO claimed that online media streaming platforms, that also include Hotstar, show content which is “unregulated and uncertified” for public viewing.

It claimed that television series like “Sacred Games”, “Game of Thrones” and “Spartacus”, shown on platforms like Netflix, contain “vulgar, profane, sexually explicit, pornographic, morally unethical and virulent” content which often “depict women in objectifying manner”.

It sought directions to the ministries of communication, information and broadcasting as well as law and justice to frame guidelines to regulate such platforms and the content they broadcast.

The plea has also sought an order to the ministries to direct the online platforms “to remove legally restricted content with immediate effect”.

Netflix’s Intensive Expansion in Asia; India Tops the Hitlist

Heading forth on its mission of increasing the customer base in Asia, Netflix accentuated the need to capture Indian market- the second populous country of the world after China. However, the digital streaming nascent has prioritized India over China as a productive ground for this streaming giant.

Asia’s young and increasingly digital population presents an “incredible opportunity” to ramp up the company’s international subscribers, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos apprised media on Thursday.

The subscription in Asia has already surpassed the 58 million in the U.S. All in, the company has 137 million subscribers globally.

“We’re in our early, early days here in Asia,” Sarandos told CNBC’s Akiko Fujita. But he said the company has “very specific initiatives” for each of the territories within the region.

Chief among those will be India, Sarandos said. Over the next few years, Netflix hopes to leverage off the country’s proven appetite for video streaming and add 100 million subscribers in India alone.

“If you think about the opportunity, there’s about 450 million internet users in India and about half of them are watching video on YouTube and services like that, which makes for a very interesting, addressable market,” said Sarandos.

In targeting India, Netflix will come up against the likes of Amazon and Hotstar, which have both seen success in the country with their modestly-priced media streaming models.

To manage that, Sarandos said the company is looking at testing a variety of pricing models to position itself against competitors, both in India and elsewhere. But he also said the focus will be on adding more locally produced original content that resonates with audiences both domestically and internationally.

Netflix plans to produce 100 original projects within the region over the coming years.

“The exciting part about that is that we’re able to come in and produce locally, using local story-tellers, and tell those stories on a grand scale because we can find a global audience,” he said.

Sarandos added that there’s “no real target” in terms of the regions those projects will come from. However, he noted that the company does not plan to use such means to enter the China market in the near future.

“In general, I would say Netflix operating in China is a little way off,” said Sarandos.

Netflix has had some success in the country via a licensing agreement with iQiyi, a video streaming subsidiary of Chinese internet company Baidu, but the firm has not launched independent operations there.

“China’s tough for a Western media company to operate in and we’ve not been very active in the market at all — with the exception of licensing some of our shows into the market. And that’s going to be our strategy for a little while,” Sarandos explained.