GlobalData: U.S. and Europe ‘Netflix’d Out’

The U.S. and Europe have become “Netflix’d out,” with the streamer suggested to focus on emerging markets such as India if it wants to halt declining subscriber growth and plummeting share price, according to new data from analytics company GlobalData.

Netflix is expected to spend an estimated $18 billion on content this year, but this will fail to attract new subs unless the streamer recognizes that many of its markets have reached saturation. GlobalData contends that India holds the most market potential, with Netflix penetration in the country expected to increase to 42% in 2026 from 24% in 2021, and streaming subscriptions forecast to reach 191 million by 2026.

Netflix’s [fiscal] results may have come at a surprise to some, as the platform’s content has been strong. However, being a big spender won’t necessarily grow subscriber numbers in the company’s traditional markets,” Francesca Gregory, associate analyst at GlobalData, said in a statement. “Streaming companies’ mantra of ‘content is king’ is no longer guaranteeing ideal subscriptions growth. Netflix will need to refine its emerging economy strategy, which has been seriously lacking.”

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Gregory contends Netflix’s market share in India hovers around 4% compared with 68% for rival Disney+. Indeed, India subs account for more than 35% of Disney+ total subs — a reality helped by Disney’s $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox, whose assets included Indian streaming platform Hotstar.

“If the company wants to spend big, surely it can spare a portion to grow its local Indian content,” Gregory said. “Netflix will need to work hard to address these problems going forward. One way is regionalized content initiatives. In the past, the company has been criticized for confusing its cultural references in its original shows. Further blunders like this will stifle any hope of Netflix reversing its weak position in India.”

Jason Monteiro Named GM of HBO Max Southeast Asia

Jason Monteiro is the new GM of HBO Max Southeast Asia. Monteiro’s hiring comes a week after Amit Malhotra exited the managing director position just seven months after taking on the job.

Monteiro will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer business, brand, marketing, subscriber management, digital partnerships and data analytics. Based in Singapore, Monteiro will oversee the existing HBO Go streaming service, which will soon convert to HBO Max.

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Jason Monteiro

Monteiro most recently served as GM of the AVOD tier of Arabic content streaming service Shahid. Prior to Shahid, he was GM of iflix in Indonesia and Malaysia, in addition to handling the platform’s marketing duties.

“Jason arrives at Max with a proven track record of building and growing subscription services across Asia and other important global markets,” Johannes Larcher, head of Max International, said in a statement.

Monteiro reports to Larcher until a new managing director for Max’s India, Southeast Asia and Korea territories is found.

“[Monteiro] is a passionate leader known for building and inspiring high-performing teams, and I’m eager to see his leadership in action as he steps into his new role,” Larcher said.

Netflix Slashing India SVOD Pricing 60%

With China closed to Hollywood streaming services, India, with the world’s No. 2 population, has become fertile ground for Western expansion of subscription streaming video.

Netflix, which bowed operations in India in 2016, and opened an office in Mumbai in 2017, is reportedly slashing monthly subscription pricing by 60% across all tiers.

The streamer’s mobile-only plan is dropping to $1.96 per month from $2.62. The standard plan is two dollars cheaper at $6.58, and the premium plan is now $8.55 from $10.59.

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Netflix disclosed the new pricing in a blog post by Monika Shergill, VP of content for Netflix India.

The price cuts come as India plays an outsized role in subscriber growth for Disney+, with the country’s Hotstar streaming service accounting for almost 38% of the former’s 118 million subs. Disney acquired Hotstar through its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019.

In addition to Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, Indian streaming services include Voot, ALTBalajim, SonyLiv, Zee5 and Eros Now.

Netflix Producing ‘The Archies’ Live-Action Movie — in India

Netflix is collaborating with Archie Comics to create a live-action movie musical set in 1960s India. The movie, directed by Zoya Akhtar and premiering exclusively on the streamer, hopes to emulate recent Netflix successes such as “Squid Game” that expand locally produced content across its global markets.

“It’s a huge source of pride that the Archie Comics characters and stories resonate with fans globally, and especially  in India,” Jon Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics, said in a statement.

Director Zoya Akhtar

Since launching in 1939, Archie Comics has followed the adventures of fictional teenagers Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle, Sabrina Spellman, Josie and the Pussycats, and Katy Keene. While some of the characters have spun off into separate series and TV shows, “The Archies” remain a seminal American brand.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to recreate the world of Archie comics, this time as a live action musical,” Pratiksha Rao, director of films and licensing for Netflix India, said in a statement. “Zoya has an incredible and unique ability to make stories and the characters in them relatable, making them feel like they are an extension of our own self.”

Disney Streaming Subscriber Growth in the Crosshairs

NEWS ANALYSIS — With Disney’s branded subscription streaming video-on-demand service, Disney+, the companywide focus since launching two years ago, all eyes Nov. 10 (after the market closes) will be on whether the platform sustained subscriber growth through the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

Disney+ ended the third quarter of this year with 116 million subscribers, an impressive tally for a service less than 2 years old. But as previously reported, one-third of those subs hail from India through Disney’s acquisition of the Hotstar streaming platform from Fox.

But in September, CEO Bob Chapek told an investor event that Disney+ could see challenges to its prolific sub growth due to ongoing issues in India, including timing of the professional cricket season coinciding with a rollover of existing Disney+ subs.

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Unlike in the United States, where Disney+ subscriber memberships automatically roll over on a monthly basis, in India Disney signed millions of subs to annual contracts that are not allowed to automatically renew in accordance with federal law. As a result, streaming memberships have to be renewed on an individual basis.

“Every time you lose that [sub], you have to get that [sub] back,” Chapek said at the Goldman Sachs event, adding that with the reboot of the Indian Premier League (cricket), there would lots of incentive among subs to renew.

Chapek cautioned Disney+ subscriber growth in India could fall to low double-digits or below.

“You have to take a step back before you can take a step forward in terms of those [Indian] renewals,” he said. “It’s a claw-back if you will.”

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Meanwhile, Disney+ continues to operate on all cylinders. The platform had 288.7 million unique visitors across all media devices, according to Morgan Stanley, which was up almost 75% from a year ago, and almost 5% from the previous quarter. Unique page views increased by 81.4% from January to September 2021, compared with the same period last year.

“We see Disney on the short list of global streaming majors,” the research firm wrote in a note. “Despite significant continued upward earnings revisions, shares have lagged as net [sub] add expectations ran ahead of content deliveries. As the content pipeline builds into 2022 and 2023, core net [sub] adds should accelerate.”

Amazon Channels Lands in India

Amazon has rolled out its Amazon Channels third-party subscription streaming video platform  in India, the e-commerce behemoth’s 12th country offering Prime members direct and discounted access to SVOD services such as Netflix, AMC+, Paramount+, BritBox, Acorn TV and Starz, depending on the market.

WarnerMedia just pulled HBO Max from the platform, a decision that will reportedly cost the service 5 million subscribers.

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Amazon Channels in India is offering direct access to eight local streaming services, including Mubi for 1,999 rupees ($27) annually. The service markets itself for 499 rupees ($6.76) monthly. Netflix India offers a mobile-only basic plan priced at 199 rupees ($2.70) a month.

For India, where Amazon launched operations in 2012, and Prime Video in 2017, the country represents huge opportunities — and controversy.

In early 2020 (before the pandemic) when founder Jeff Bezos visited the country, he was met by protests from small business owners fearful the e-commerce giant would drive them out of business. In reality, Amazon generates a significant percentage of its revenue through third-party retailers.

Regardless, the Competition Commission of India has begun a probe of Amazon and Walmart about allegations the giants abuse their dominance via deep discounts, preferential treatment of select vendors and related backroom deals.

In August, Amazon and billionaire Narayana Murthy announced they would be ending a seven-year joint business venture that had sought to help small businesses sell on the Internet. India’s e-commerce market is projected to reach $1 trillion in size.

Netflix to Debut Indian Superhero Movie ‘Minnal Murali’

Netflix is set to distribute original Indian superhero movie Minnal Murali, one of the streaming video pioneer’s first Malayalam films. Directed by Basil Joseph, the movie sees Malayalam star Tovino Thomas play an ordinary man-turned-superhero Murali, who is struck by a bolt of lightning, which bestows him with special powers.

The film also stars Guru Somasundaram, Harisree Ashokan and Aju Varghese. The movie will premiere with dubs in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and English.

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“We wanted to create a superhero that people could relate to and connect with on an emotional level,” Joseph said in a statement. “Our efforts were focused on having a strong narrative that could stand on its own, while backing the action. I am glad that the film is releasing on Netflix.”

Pratiksha Rao, director, films and licensing at Netflix India, said the movie underscores the growing appeal of Malayalam cinema with innovative storytelling.

“As we expand our film slate to include more diverse Malayalam stories, we are excited to bring the widely anticipated Minnal Murali as a Netflix Film.

Disney+ Hotstar Reveals New Content Slate, Pricing Tiers

With 33% of the 103 million Disney+ subscribers originating from India, the media giant is ramping up its presence in the region, including new original Indian content — and cricket — for the branded Disney+ Hotstar platform.

The platform July 27 disclosed 16 new shows, including four movies: Bhuj: The Pride of India, comedy Hungama 2, thriller Collar Bomb and Bhoot Police. The service will also live-stream cricket tournaments Vivo IPL 2021 and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

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“The content slate demonstrates our relentless pursuit of bringing original and locally relevant stories to our consumers,” Sunil Rayan, president of Disney+ Hotstar, said in a statement.

Disney acquired Hotstar in its $71.3 billion acquisition of select 21st Century Fox assets in 2019, including 20th Century Fox Studio. Disney operates Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar, Star+, Hulu, Hulu + Live TV and ESPN+.

The platform, beginning Sept. 1, will bow new annual subscription plans for a mobile-only single device priced at INR499 ($6.69); two devices at INR899 ($12.06); and INR1499 ($20.12) for four devices. The single mobile-only plan currently costs INR399 ($5.36).

“With the newly introduced subscription plans, we want to make our content more accessible to our viewers by offering best-in-class entertainment while giving them an opportunity to choose the plan that best suits their needs,” Rayan said.

Ex-Legal Affairs Director Sues Netflix for Discrimination

A former legal affairs director at Netflix has sued the streaming behemoth, alleging racial discrimination and gender bias, among other issues.

In the lawsuit, filed July 13 in U.S. Superior Court in Los Angeles, Nandini Mehta alleges she was terminated after calling out the company’s tax set-up in India to senior management.

Mehta, an Indian citizen hired in 2018 and working in Netflix’s Mumbai and Beverly Hills, Calif., offices, claims she was “systematically discriminated against” after questioning the streamer’s tax liability strategy, according to the complaint. Mehta claims she was warned by superiors to drop the matter.

Netflix, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, claims the allegations about the streamer’s corporate structure in India are untrue.

“The structure we established in India is typical for multinational companies and reflects our business needs and the relevant governmental rules,” Netflix said.

Netflix entered the Indian market in 2016 following a global rollout. It reportedly has more than 2 million subs in the region.

The suit contends Mehta was fired in April for using her corporate credit card for personal expenses. Mehta, in her suit, calls the claims “bogus,” claiming she was authorized to use the card for personal expenses.

Netflix says such authorization is untrue, and counters Mehta was warned to stop using her card for non-business expenses.

“Ms. Mehta was fired from Netflix for repeatedly using her corporate credit card for tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses,” said the streamer. “Mehta was instructed not to use her corporate card for personal expenses and given ample opportunity to correct her behavior. She did not and her employment was terminated as a result. We are confident her claims will be found to be totally lacking in merit.”

Separately, three movie marketing executives were reportedly let go after a group discussion about their boss — chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John — was revealed on a social media platform.

“The depiction of the Slack messages in question being critical of marketing leadership is untrue,” Netflix said in a statement.

Saint John was hired in 2020 following high-profile stints at Endeavor, Uber and Apple.

New Data Finds Netflix, Disney+ Sentimental Opposites in India

As the subscription streaming video pioneer and first global SVOD service, Netflix dominates throughout much of the Asia-Pacific region, including in countries such as Australia and Malaysia. Yet, Netflix is losing favor in one of the region’s most populated countries, India, with consumer sentiment down year-over-year while sentiment for rival service Disney+ is up through May 2021, according to new information from GlobalData.

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Much of change has to do with the pandemic and interest in the sport of cricket, the latter the country’s national pasttime, whose professional league’s streaming rights are held by Disney streaming subsidiary Hotstar. Disney acquired Hotstar as part of its $71 billion acquisition of select 21th Century Fox entertainment assets.

Hotstar now represents a third (33%) of the 103 million global subscriber footprint of Disney+.

“Despite a year-on-year dip in market share in India during 2020, Netflix’s sentiments were much higher than Disney during the year,” Rinaldo Pereira, senior business fundamentals analyst at GlobalData, said in a statement. “In 2021, the company’s sentiments have dipped and are lower than Disney’s.”

During 2020, Netflix used a free weekend strategy to gain subscriptions in India, and the strategy worked. Yet, Disney gained even more subscribers due to its edge in pricing and local content, i.e. cricket, offerings.

Both Netflix and Disney have recognized the need to address the domestic market by adjusting price points and driving a mobile-centric strategy. Pereira expects further Netflix sub growth in India despite growing competition. At the same time, Disney + Hotstar is likely to remain in the top spot, with net sub additions plateauing in 2022.

Indeed, the company had twice as many mentions on social media compared to Netflix in 2020. Netflix’s India and APAC related social media mentions peaked in 2018 and have been on the downtrend since.

“For Disney and Netflix, geopolitics was among the top themes in [social media] sentences, in line with the Indian government’s new information technology rules in 2021,” Pereira said. “With Indian consumers unlikely to subscribe to every platform, companies with the right price points and the best local content will make the most of [the country’s] booming market.”