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Netflix comes to India—and each could benefit the other

By Shelly Walia

This post has been corrected.

Netflix has finally arrived in India, with the potential to revolutionise how—and from whom—the country consumes entertainment.

The US-based, subscription-driven streaming service, faced with slower audience growth in its home market, needs the diversification that India provides, along with international audiences in the 129 other countries where Netflix simultaneously launched on Jan. 6. (By population, India is by far the largest of the countries on the platform now.)

And Indian audiences could no doubt use the diversification away from the histrionic serial dramas typically served up by the Indian television industry, which is losing its edge in a country with a massive population of young people.

Netflix’s entry into India opens up a humongous library of films, documentaries, and TV shows to an already film-obsessed audience, in a country with 1.3 billion people—more than 400 million of whom are now Internet users, according to an estimate from the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

Unlike YouTube, which is geared toward shorter, native content, Netflix offers full-length movies and TV shows, including its own content, such as the Netflix-produced House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Starting now, India can stream Netflix content by subscribing to one of the three models—basic, standard, and premium, priced at Rs500, Rs650, and Rs800, respectively. For the first month, Netflix is offering unlimited streaming for free.

Netflix isn’t the only player in content streaming, though. In India, it will be competing with homegrown companies including Star’s Hotstar and Eros Now, which currently offer video for free but with a limited library of content.

There are a couple of other challenges to consider: For starters, India is one of the world’s largest consumers of illegal and pirated online content, because people are reluctant to pay for content.

And then there is the problem of sketchy internet speed, although the impending launch of 4G services in India should speed things up.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Netflix was offering free streaming for the first three months, instead of one.