Netflix is the world's biggest, most valuable streaming company. And, why not? It has been present in the market for the longest time. It has invested, and continues to invest, billions of dollars on the most exciting content in the market. The market has rewarded it with a huge number of premium subscribers and a big market value. But Netflix can't seem to do business in India. Why is it that Netflix, the world's largest streaming service, and India aren't a good match? Let's find out.
We'll take the most recent case of Bad Boy Billionaires. BBB is the latest non-fiction docu-series from Netflix. It is based around the chronicles of India's baddest business tycoons - Vijay Mallya, Ramalinga Raju, Subrata Roy, and Nirav Modi.
Earlier set for release on September 02, BBB on Netflix was blocked by High Court of eastern Bihar after a complaint by Raju. While we won't comment on the legality of the issue, Netflix India has been in legal trouble for previous releases like Sacred Games and Delhi Crime as well.
Apart from being a hindrance to premieres, this is an additional cost burden on the streaming platform. It has to fight cases with top lawyers that charge in the millions.
The Indian government's censor board is notorious for blocking and censoring a lot of content in Indian films and TV shows. Thankfully, the censor has not been allowed into the Web content scene, yet.
However, the government has been hinting, for the longest time, about such an intervention in the future in case platforms do not heed. As part of that, Netflix has signed a self-regulatory code alongwith other players to stay in check.
This essentially means Netflix cannot touch upon sensitive topics such as politics, caste, religion, and most of the stuff that might turn out to be controversial. While this is still better than censoring, it is a very prohibitory tactic that obviously hinders creativity.
Those were just the legal and political issues that Netflix faces in India. There is also a big issue of ARPU or Average Revenue Per User. While Netflix has been constantly increasing subscription pricing in the US, it has had to come up with cheaper plans for India.
In fact, the Rs 199 mobile-only plan is Netflix's most affordable across the world. Despite that, the service does not even have a million subscribers in a country with 500 million+ internet users. The money it spends in content here has no return at all.
And, finally, Netflix India faces brutal competition from players like Amazon Prime Video and ZEE5, who have deep pockets and have figured out the Indian market. Not just that; you also have extremely low-cost players like MX Player dominating the market.
In a market where the consumer is not ready to pay for video streaming, where you have smarter players, Netflix probably does not stand a chance for the next 5-6 years or until it figures out a lower cost offering.
With growing legal costs, strong government pressure, decreasing revenue per user, and a high level of smart competition, Netflix should have a fighter spirit to stay in the Indian market.
Otherwise, it doesn't really make sense for Netflix to continue earning peanuts while getting all the brickbats that it can.
What do you think? Should Netflix continue in India? Let us know in the comments on Facebook!