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Netflix and Amazon Prime aren’t the main contenders in India’s streaming wars

India vs Pakistan cricket match in Mumbai - 19 Sep 2018
EPA/Divyakant Solanki
What’s on India’s watch list?
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Hotstar is crushing its competition in India.

Over 45% of India’s smartphone users had the homegrown video-streaming app installed on their phones between June and November 2018, data from Delhi-based market intelligence firm Kalagato show. The survey included around 1.5 million smartphone users in the country.

The year 2018 was also a solid year for the industry overall.

Most over-the-top (OTT) video players increased their share in the four-month period starting in August, especially Amazon Prime Video, SonyLIV, and Netflix.

And the competition has been hotting up.

“Platforms like Alt Balaji are famous among Indian housewives due to their impressive library of regional shows that suit their mindset,” said Subrat Kar, CEO of video analytics startup Vidooly. “Hotstar, on the other hand, provides sports, and Indian TV soaps, including many shows from media houses like HBO and Star.” Netflix is spending big time on originals and Amazon has been upping its regional content game.

Besides Hotstar, the other content king that has emerged in India’s OTT market is JioTV, which was installed on over 30% of Indian smartphones, according to Kalagato.

The rise of Jio

JioTV, a live TV app specifically available to customers of Mukesh Ambani’s telco upstart Reliance Jio, launched on Aug. 15, 2018, has beaten the likes of Vodafone Play and AirtelTV by offering over 600 free live TV channels.

JioTV as been able to penetrate so much of the market because it “comes pre-bundled with Jio’s devices and SIMs,” Aman Kumar, chief business officer at Kalagato, told Quartz.

“It’s (JioTV’s) perhaps a bigger threat to Hotstar than an Amazon or Netflix because its distribution network is very strong,” Kumar said, adding that the conglomerate run by India’s richest man can afford to splurge on customer acquisition as it can cross-subsidize the cost of one customer across many of its other products.

In fact, JioTV has been so bullish at driving customer adoption that it actually captures a larger share in tier 3 cities, where smartphone penetration is sparse and network spotty. Following Jio’s success in reaching rural India, ErosNow recently partnered with telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) to take its content to villages.

Perhaps the only player still struggling is Netflix.

The Netflix complex

The data show that Netflix not only has a smaller reach—it is installed on less than 7% of smartphones in India—but users aren’t loyal to the platform either.

Netflix had an uninstall rate almost three times higher than that of Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, or JioTV. “Clearly Hotstar has built a better product for (the) Indian market,” said Kalagato’s Kumar. “A big reason they succeed is that they were quick in investing in streaming rights for cricket events.”

Sacred Games did touch the sweet spot of Indian viewers, but one show is not enough,” said Kar of Vidooly. The Los Gatos, California-based streaming giant has to keep up efforts in the country if it wants to make a mark. It has already allocated Rs600 crore to churn new content out of India.

However, there is one bright spot for the company: Baiting users may be a battle but keeping them hooked comes easy. Netflix has the highest net promoter score (NPS) of 0.67 compared to its rivals. This means two-thirds of Netflix users in India would recommend the platform to others.

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