Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) unveiled a mobile-only streaming plan in India last summer in an effort to win over consumers that were interested in Netflix's content, but bulked at its relatively high price. The plan debuted at just 199 Rupees per month in July. That's less than its biggest rival, Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Hotstar, which increased its monthly price to 299 Rupees last April.
The low-priced plan has been a considerable growth driver for the streaming media company in the country. Management said it's performed better than expected during the company's third quarter earnings call in October. That month it expanded its mobile-only offering to Malaysia, at a slightly higher price point. After seeing success in 2019, the company is expected to expand the offer to even more markets, most likely in the Asia-Pacific region, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Netflix's success so far
Netflix has made a big commitment to the Indian market, but up until 2019, it didn't have much to show for it. About three years after launching in the market in early 2016, it had just around 1 million or 1.5 million subscribers.
But it's estimated to have added over 1 million net new subscribers in the country last year alone. More than half of that number is attributed to the new mobile-only plan, according to Mihir Shah, Media Partners Asia vice president for India.
Granted, Netflix has also stepped up its local content investments in India. An increase in content that resonates with the Indian audience likely helped boost interest in the streaming platform, but the lower-priced plan has enabled Netflix to convert more interested consumers into paid subscribers.
A big opportunity for subscriber growth
Netflix released region-based financials last month in preparation to start reporting based on geographic segments starting with its fourth quarter 2019 report this month. One of the key details of the report was the disclosure of 6.5 million paid subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region, a number some analysts found disappointing considering the substantial population in the region (even when excluding China).
But the other way of looking at the figure is that Netflix has a massive opportunity to win new subscribers. Netflix's 2 million or so Indian subscribers at the end of 2019 may seem small, but consider Hotstar only had 3 million premium subscribers last summer. The field is still wide open for the competition.
After the success in India, rolling out the new plan to more countries that exhibit similar characteristics -- lower average GDP, higher percentage of streaming on mobile -- should fuel subscriber growth for Netflix.
Watch average revenue per subscriber
One of the nice presents Netflix provides investors in its new regional reporting is a breakdown of average revenue per subscriber. That's especially important in light of the new mobile-only plans in India and Malaysia and their potential expansion to new markets this year. Over time, investors should see average revenue per subscriber decline.
But it's possible, even likely, that mobile-only subscribers will convert to full-feature subscribers over time. Ans as consumers spend more and more time with Netflix, the company may be compelled to open up more streaming options.
Netflix has even experimented with pricing for new subscribers, offering a discount of up to 50% for long-term commitments. That may be another way for the company to convert customers from its low-priced plan to higher-priced plans over time.
Netflix has a lot of ways to play with pricing in order to maximize subscriber growth in markets where it's underpenetrated. While most of that subscriber growth will come with lower average revenue, over time Netflix should be able to increase how much customers are paying. Investors have already seen it do just that in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Latin America. The starting price in Asia-Pacific might just have to be a bit lower.