Netflix is now rolling out a mobile-only version of their service in select Asian markets in an effort to expand its 137 million customers base. For weeks, the content streaming giant has touted plans to create more content specifically for India and other Asian countries, and it is now testing out a low-priced version of its service that is available only for smartphones and tablets.
Reports have come out of Malaysia that Netflix is testing a version of its service where users can pay only $4 a month -- as opposed to $8 for the lowest tier standard plan -- but will be available just through mobile devices.
Netflix has so far resisted calls for lower-priced subscription packages in certain markets, but after a rough second quarter, the media behemoth decided to push further abroad and tap into huge markets across Asia that are now gaining more and more access to high-speed internet through mobile phones.
There are a number of streaming services, both legal and illegal, as well as YouTube, that are now doubling down on their efforts to get a leg up in Asian markets with cheap, $3 to $4 plans that are appealing to the growing middle class.
A Netflix spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the trials were already up and running across Asia, and only one month ago Netflix held a huge event in Singapore announcing plans to create four Netflix original series and eight Netflix films specifically for India.
"We celebrate India today with an incredible line-up of original films and series that are right now filming across India. This line-up cuts across genres from horror to fantasy and in locations from Leh to Mumbai," said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix.
"The breadth of stories with its local settings and complex characters is incredible and we can't wait for people to discover and fall in love with them."
In addition to the shows and movies made for India, there will be another 17 shows from five other Asian countries, according to Bloomberg. Netflix says it is also working on nearly 100 film and TV projects across Asia, including in Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan, laying the groundwork for these films through their new offices in Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, and Mumbai.
More than 79 million of their subscribers come from outside of the US, and Netflix was able to bolster its yearly earnings with a strong third quarter that saw them gain 7 million subscribers. In Malaysia, where the mobile-only plan is now being rolled out, Netflix is offering a $4 plan to rival services like Viu, HOOQ, the Sky-backed iFlix, and Hotstar, all of which offer cheap monthly plans for about $3.
The downside to the Netflix plans being rolled out in Malaysia is that you can only stream in standard definition and not HD. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings told Bloomberg this week that the company is still reticent to lower prices but wanted to experiment with different pricing models in certain markets to see whether subscribers will flock to them. Netflix currently has three tiers and now plan to test the fourth, mobile-only tier.
Hastings said that although it does not have even 2 million subscribers in any Asian countries, it believes there is a market of more than 100 million people interested in digital streaming services.
Bloomberg reported that on the latest earnings call in October, Netflix Chief Product Officer Gregory Peters said the company was trying to "figure out how to expand the market as we grow."
"We'll experiment with other pricing models not only for India, but around the world that allow us to sort of broaden access by providing a pricing tier that sits below our current lowest tier," Peters said on the conference call with analysts.
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