Netflix Sees Green Shoots in India

Netflix India
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix wants investors to know that it still has one of its four global regions growing, and that ain't bad! 

Netflix on Tuesday reported decelerating first-quarter revenue growth and subscriber losses -- losses! -- in three key regions: the U.S and Canada (UCAN); Europe, the Middle and Africa (EMEA); and Latin America and the Caribbean (LATAM). 

And as we all know by now, Netflix has since experienced a rather catastrophic decline on the Nasdaq, its stock price falling 37%.

Also read: The Party’s Over: What Netflix’s Horrible Quarter Means For the Rest of the Streaming Sector (Bloom)

Netflix did, however, grow in the Asia-Pacific region, adding nearly 1.1 million subscribers during the first quarter and expanding revenue by over 20% year over year to $917 million.

Netflix executives said earlier this week that they're seeing "nice growth" in Japan, India, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.

However, an emerging key to its APAC regional growth has been India, a country of 1.38 billion consumers, and in which Netflix recently lowered prices to as cheap as ₹199 ($2.60).

Netflix first entered India in 2016, and it's yet to really catch on in a country dominated, streaming-wise, by Disney's Hotstar, which ended 2021 with nearly 46 million subscribers. Netflix doesn't break out its India subscriber totals, but consensus research company estimates put Netflix's paying base at around 4.5 million customers.

Netflix has, in the past, been accused of not familiarizing itself enough with the nuances of Indian market and "throwing money" into its local operations rather than really getting hands-on.

During his quarterly interview for shareholders in January, Netflix Co-CEO Reed Hastings conceded that improving Netflix's market position in India has been "frustrating," but he also signaled Netflix's renewed commitment, adding, "We're leaning in there."

In December, Netflix announced a slate of 12 new series, 13 new movies and seven returning series for the local Indian market, emphasizing a priority on local production.

There's reason to believe the tide could be turning for Netflix.

During Tuesday's otherwise dour Q1 earnings report, the company's other co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, said, "The product fit incorporates subscription prices as well as willingness and ability to pay. So we have seen a nice uptick in engagement in India. We are definitely taking it in the right direction."

While Netflix does have competition in India in the form of Disney, it's not facing nearly as much of the oppressive market saturation it's seeing in its home UCAN base and in other global territories.

For example, smart TV adoption -- a key gateway to subscription streaming service signups -- appears to be going strong. India is coming off a record year for smart TV shipments, up 48% in 2021.

Still, while there may be a lot more "runway" for Netflix to build a strong local customer base, password sharing -- a topic of global concern addressed at length by Netflix during its day of infamy Tuesday -- is of particular Subcontinental worry.

"There are over 100 million households that already are choosing to view Netflix. They love the service. We just got to get paid to some degree for them," Hastings said in his latest investor interview.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!