Media

Mammoth Media introduces Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling to its chat fiction app Yarn

Posted by | Apps, Mammoth Media, Media, Mobile, yarn | No Comments

The chat fiction stories offered in Mammoth Media‘s mobile app Yarn are about to get more interactive.

The branching narrative mechanic should be familiar to anyone who read Choose Your Own Adventure books when they were kids — you read a story, and, at certain key moments, you choose from different options that determine where the plot will go next.

More recently, the “Being Beyonce’s assistant for a day” thread on Twitter reminded everyone how fun and stressful this kind of storytelling can be. In fact, Mammoth says it’s hired the thread’s author Landon Rivera as one of the writers for this new initiative.

One thing you probably won’t recognize from your childhood reading is the fact that some of these choices aren’t free — to select them, you’ll need to spend money in the form of Yarn’s new virtual currency, gems.

Mammoth founder and CEO Benoit Vatere explained that in those cases, there might be two choices that you can select for free, plus a third that you need to pay for. Usually, it will be something that accelerates the story or sends it off in a new direction — in a horror story, you could get the option to stab someone, or in a romance story, your character could get the option to go home with someone.

Vatere added, “It’s not only being able to have a different branch in the story, but being able to play as a different character lead … Instead of being the male character, would they like to be the female character and really see a different perspective?”

He acknowledged that some of Yarn’s paying subscribers might be cranky about being asked to pay more, but he said the goal is that those subscribers can have “a full experience” without having to buy additional gems.

Yarn is launching interactive stories with titles including “Blue Ivy’s Nanny,” where it’s your first day on the job as Beyoncé’s nanny (I’m going to go ahead and guess that Rivera worked on this one); a romance story called “Playing the Field;” a horror story called “Haunted Camper” and a drama called “Trapped.” Vatere also said there are plans for branched narratives tying into existing Yarn franchises, and set in the world of Archie Comics.

Overall, Vatere said he’s hoping that this will lead to more engagement from Yarn readers, while also opening up new opportunities for monetization.

“Subscription is a great model, but subscription has a cap,” he said. That’s why Mammoth is experimenting with virtual currency, and why it plans to make these stories available to non-subscribers.

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Disney+ comes to Canada and the Netherlands on Nov. 12, will support nearly all major platforms at launch

Posted by | Android, Apple, apple inc, apple tv, Australia, Canada, chromecast, computing, Disney, e-commerce, espn, Google, Hulu, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Media, Netflix, Netherlands, New Zealand, operating system, playstation, TC, United States | No Comments

Disney+ will have an international launch that begins at the same time as its rollout in the U.S., Disney revealed. The company will be launching its digital streaming service on November 12 in Canada and The Netherlands on November 12, and will be available in Australia and New Zealand the following week. The streaming service will also support virtually every device and operating system from day one.

Disney+ will be available on iOS, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku and Xbox One at launch, which is pretty much an exhaustive list of everywhere someone might want to watch it, leaving aside some smaller proprietary smart TV systems. That, combined with the day-and-date global markets, should be a clear indicator that Disney wants its service to be available to as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible.

Through Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Apple TV devices, customers will be able to subscribe via in-app purchase. Disney+ will also be fully integrated with Apple’s TV app, which is getting an update in iOS 13 in hopes of becoming even more useful as a central hub for all a user’s video content. The one notable exception on the list of supported devices and platforms is Amazon’s Fire TV, which could change closer to launch depending on negotiations.

In terms of pricing, the service will run $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia, it’ll be $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year, and in New Zealand, it’ll be $9.99 and $99.99 per year. All prices are in local currency.

That compares pretty well with the $6.99 per month (or $69.99 yearly) asking price in the U.S., and undercuts the Netflix pricing in those markets, too. This is just the Disney+ service on its own, however, not the combined bundle that includes ESPN Plus and Hulu for $12.99 per month, which is probably more comparable to Netflix in terms of breadth of content offering.

 

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YC-backed Lokal wants to bring local news, classifieds to 900 million Indians in their regional languages

Posted by | Apps, Asia, funding, india, Lokal, Media, Mobile, Y Combinator | No Comments

Each month millions of Indians are coming online for the first time, making India the last great growth market for internet companies worldwide. But winning them presents its own challenges.

These users, most of whom live in small cities and villages in India, can’t speak English. Their interests and needs are different from those of their counterparts in large cities. When they come online, the world wide web that is predominantly focused on the English-speaking masses, suddenly seems tiny, Google executives acknowledged at a media conference last year. According to a KPMG-Google report (PDF) on Indian languages, there will be 536 million non-English speaking users using internet in India by 2021.

Many companies are increasingly adding support for more languages, and Silicon Valley giants such as Google are developing tools to populate the web with content in Indian languages.

But there is still room for others to participate. On Friday, a new startup announced it is also in the race. And it has already received the backing of Y Combinator (YC).

Lokal is a news app that wants to bring local news to hundreds of millions of users in India in their regional languages. The startup, which is currently available in the Telugu language, has already amassed more than two million users, Jani Pasha, co-founder of Lokal, told TechCrunch in an interview.

lokal homescreen

There are tens of thousands of publications in India and several news aggregators that showcase the top stories from the mainstream outlets. But very few today are focusing on local news and delivering it in a language that the masses can understand, Pasha said.

Lokal is building a network of stringers and freelance reporters who produce original reporting around the issues and current affairs of local towns and cities. The app is updated throughout the day with regional news and also includes an “information” stream that shows things like current price of vegetables, upcoming events and contact details for local doctors and police stations.

The platform has grown to cover 18 districts in South India and is slowly ramping up its operations to more corners of the country. The early signs show that people are increasingly finding Lokal useful. “In 11 of the 18 districts we cover, we already have a larger presence and reader base than other media houses,” Pasha said.

Before creating Lokal, Pasha and the other co-founder of the startup, Vipul Chaudhary, attempted to develop a news aggregator app. The app presented news events in a timeline, offering context around each development.

“We made the biggest mistake. We built the product for four to five months without ever consulting with the users. We quickly found that nobody was using it. We went back to the drawing board and started interviewing users to understand what they wanted. How they consumed news, and where they got their news from,” he said.

“One thing we learned was that most of these users in tier 2 and tier 3 India still heavily rely on newspapers. Newspapers still carry a lot of local news and they rely on stringers who produce these news pieces and source them to publications,” he added.

But newspapers have limited pages, and they are slow. So Pasha and the team tried to build a platform that addresses these two things.

Pasha tried to replicate it through distributing local news, sourced from stringers, on a WhatsApp group. “That one WhatsApp group quickly became one of many as more and more people kept joining us,” he recalls. And that led to the creation of Lokal.

Along the journey, the team found that classifieds, matrimonial ads and things like birthday wishes are still driving people to newspapers, so Lokal has brought those things to the platform.

Pasha said Lokal will expand to three more states in the coming months. It will also begin to experiment with monetization, though that is not the primary focus currently. “The plan is to eventually bring this to entire India,” he said.

A growing number of startups today are attempting to build solutions for what they call India 2 and India 3 — the users who don’t live in major cities, don’t speak English and are financially not as strong.

ShareChat, a social media platform that serves users in 15 regional languages — but not English — said recently it has raised $100 million in a round led by Twitter. The app serves more than 60 million users each month, a figure it wants to double in the next year.

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Apple Music for Artists comes out of beta with an iOS app and Shazam data

Posted by | Apple, apple music, Media, Mobile | No Comments

Apple Music launched its data dashboard for musicians more than a year ago. Today, the company is taking that product — Apple Music for Artists — out of beta, and adding some new features in the process.

For one thing, it’s no longer a web-only product, because Apple is releasing an iPhone app. On both web and iOS, Apple Music for Artists allows musicians and their teams to see how often a song has been played, how many listeners it’s reaching and how many times it’s been purchased.

There’s also an “insights” section designed to highlight noteworthy data at any given moment, like how the first week of a new song compares to the first weeks of previous songs, or when the popularity of a song is spiking, or if they’ve hit a big milestone like 1 million plays.

Apple also is introducing data from Shazam, the music-recognition app it acquired last year. The idea is to capture listener behavior that’s very different from seeking out an artist or a specific song — it’s more about a moment of spontaneous connection, when you hear a song and think, “Whoa, what’s this?” (This also provides a window to behavior beyond Apple Music listeners.)

Apple Music for Artists

One of the goals is to give musicians the data they need to actually guide their decisions. For example, they might see that a song doesn’t have many plays compared to their big singles, but it’s doing surprisingly well on Shazam — so maybe it’s time to shift promotion.

And the data is also browsable by city, on a map. So if someone’s planning a tour, they can use this to data to choose which cities to visit, or to find the correct venue size in a given market.

Apple says all the data (including Shazam data) goes back to the launch of Apple Music in 2015. Any artist can claim their account for free.

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India’s Flipkart bets on free video streaming service and Hindi support to win next 200 million internet users

Posted by | Amazon India, Apps, Asia, Disney, eCommerce, Entertainment, Flipkart, Media, Mobile, TC, Walmart | No Comments

India’s e-commerce giant Flipkart said on Tuesday that it is revamping its shopping app to add support for Hindi language, a video streaming service and an audio-visual assistant, the latest in a series of recent efforts to expand its reach in the country.

The e-commerce firm, which sold a majority stake to Walmart for $16 billion last year and leads the local market, told TechCrunch that it has started to roll out the features on its shopping app and will push it to all its existing users within the next 20 days.

Only 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people speak English. Flipkart said it has been working to customize its entire platform for several months to add support for Hindi. More than 500 million people in India speak Hindi.

As part of the revamp, the company is also introducing an “audio visual guided navigation” feature, also built in Hindi, that is aimed at first-time internet users — and existing online users not comfortable with making transactions online — to make it easier for them to navigate the service and place orders.

Its rival Amazon India added support for Hindi last year, though the feature is limited to basic text translation.

As part of the accessibility push, Flipkart is also introducing an in-app video streaming feature dubbed “Flipkart Videos” that will syndicate movies, shows and other long-form and short-form content from a number of production houses and movie studios, the company said.

The inclusion of the video streaming feature comes as Indians’ appetite for consuming media content on the internet has ballooned in the recent years. Hotstar, a Disney-owned video streaming service, has amassed more than 300 million monthly active users in the country.

Flipkart said the video streaming feature will enable it to invite a new segment of users to its platform who are online but don’t currently shop on the internet. Even as more than 500 million users are connected to the web in India, only tens of millions of them currently shop there.

The streaming feature will be accessible to all users at no charge without any loyalty program, a company spokesperson said, refuting a recent media report that claimed otherwise.

“In the past 10 years our vision and ethos have been to solve for ‘Real India,’ create India specific tech solutions, here in India. What we are rolling out when it comes to addressing the needs of the next 200 million users in our country, is taking forward those founding principles of access and affordability,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Group CEO of Flipkart, in a statement.

“We strongly believe that the next phase of our growth is rooted in loyalty, democratizing e-commerce and the country will continue seeing more innovations that stem from our deep understanding of Indian consumers, especially middle India.”

Flipkart said it is also attempting to make it easier for users to discover items on its app. So it is introducing a feed called “Flipkart Ideas” that will populate short-form videos, animated images, polls and quizzes.

For instance, a user may see a short-form video that shows a sportsperson wearing a pair of sneakers, a t-shirt, a pair of jeans and a cap. If they tap on the video, they will see the exact items the person in the video is wearing and other similar items. One more tap, and the user would be able to purchase any of those items.

The company said it is working with more than 400 influencers and 30 brands to create content that will appear on the feed.

All of these features, as well as a gaming section that Flipkart introduced last year, will now appear at the bottom of the screen for easier navigation, the company said. More than half a million users in India play mini-games on Flipkart everyday. The company said it will introduce more games to boost engagement levels and offer loyalty points as incentive to customers.

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WhatsApp reaches 400 million users in India, its biggest market

Posted by | Apps, Asia, Google, india, Media, Mobile, Paytm, WhatsApp, Will Cathcart | No Comments

WhatsApp has amassed more than 400 million users in India, the instant messaging app confirmed today, reaffirming its gigantic reach in its biggest market.

Amitabh Kant, CEO of highly influential local think-tank NITI Aayog, revealed the new stat at a press conference held by WhatsApp in New Delhi on Thursday. A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed that the platform indeed had more than 400 million monthly active users in the country.

The remarkable revelation comes more than two years after WhatsApp said it had hit 200 million users in India. WhatsApp — or Facebook — did not share any India-specific users count in the period in between.

The public disclosure today should help Facebook reaffirm its dominance in India, where it appears to be used by nearly every smartphone user. According to research firm Counterpoint, India has about 450 million smartphone users. (Some other research firms peg the number to be lower.)

It’s worth pointing out that WhatsApp also supports KaiOS — a mobile operating system for feature phones. Millions of KaiOS-powered JioPhone handsets have shipped in India. Additionally, there are about 500 million internet users, according to several industry estimates.

As WhatsApp becomes ubiquitous in the nation, the service is increasingly mutating to serve additional needs. Businesses such as social-commerce app Meesho have been built on top of WhatsApp. Facebook backed Meesho recently in what was its first investment of this kind in an Indian startup. Then, of course, WhatsApp has also come under hot water for its role in the spread of false information in the nation.

As ByteDance and others aggressively expand their businesses in India, Facebook’s perceived dominance in the country has come under attack in recent months. ByteDance’s TikTok, which has amassed 120 million users in India, has been heralded by many as the top competitor of Facebook.

A WhatsApp spokesperson also told TechCrunch that India remains WhatsApp’s biggest market. In 2017, Facebook said its marquee service had about 250 million users in India — a figure it has not updated in the years since.

WhatsApp, which has about 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide, does not really have any major competitor in India. The closest to a competitor it has in the country is Messenger, another platform owned by Facebook, and Hike, which millions of users check everyday. Times Internet — an internet conglomerate in India that runs several news outlets, entertainment services and more — claims to reach 450 million users in the country each month.

At the aforementioned press conference, WhatsApp global chief Will Cathcart said WhatsApp also plans to roll out WhatsApp Pay, its payment service, to all its users toward the end of the year — something TechCrunch reported earlier.

Its arrival in India’s burgeoning payments space could create serious tension for Google Pay, Flipkart’s PhonePe and Paytm. For Facebook, WhatsApp Pay’s success is even more crucial as the company currently has no plans to bring cryptocurrency wallet Calibra to the country, it told TechCrunch on the sidelines of the Libra and Calibra unveil.

In a series of announcements this week, WhatsApp also unveiled a tie-up with NITI Aayog to promote women’s entrepreneurship. “By launching ‘gateway to a billion opportunities’ and our digital skills training program, we hope to shine a light on the amazing work already happening and build the next generation of entrepreneurs and change makers,” said Cathcart.

At a conference in Mumbai on Wednesday, Cathcart announced a partnership with the Indian School of Public Policy — India’s first program in the theory and practice of public policy, product design and management — to bring a series of privacy design workshops to future policy makers. These workshops will explore “the importance and practice of privacy-centric design to help technology make a positive impact on society,” the Facebook-owned platform said.

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What lower Netflix pricing tells us about competing in India

Posted by | Amazon, Apple, Apps, Asia, China, Cred, Disney, Facebook, Finance, FreeCharge, funding, Fundings & Exits, Google India, HBO, Hotstar, iPhone, LinkedIn, Media, Mobile, Netflix, Paytm, Reed Hastings, Satyan Gajwani, SnapDeal, Spotify, Tim Cook, Times Internet, Uber, Vijay Shekhar Sharma | No Comments

At a conference in New Delhi early last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was confronted with a question that his company has been asked many times over the years. Would he consider lowering the subscription cost in India?

It’s a tactic that most Silicon Valley companies have adapted to in the country over the years. Uber rides aren’t as costly in India as they are elsewhere. Spotify and Apple Music cost less than $2 per month to users in the country. YouTube Premium as well as subscriptions to U.S. news outlets such as WSJ and New York Times are also priced significantly lower compared to the prices they charge in their home turf.

Hastings had also come prepared: He acknowledged that the entertainment viewing industry in India is very different from other parts of the world. To be sure, much of the pay-TV in India is supported by ads and the access fee remains too low ($5). But that was not going to change how Netflix likes to roll, he said.

“We want to be sensitive to great stories and to fund those great stories by investing in local content,” he said. “So yes, our strategy is to build up the local content — and of course we have got the global content — and try to uplevel the industry,” he said, identifying movie-goers who spend about Rs 500 ($7.25) or more on tickets each month as Netflix’s potential customers.

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Indian commuters walking below a poster of “Sacred Games”, an original show produced by Netflix (Image: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a year and a half later, Netflix has had a change of heart. The company today rolled out a lower-priced subscription plan in India, a first for the company. The monthly plan, which restricts usage of the service to mobile devices only, is priced at Rs 199 ($2.8) — a third of the least expensive plan in the U.S.

At a press conference in New Delhi today, Netflix executives said that the lower-priced subscription tier is aimed at expanding the reach of its service in the country. “We want to really broaden the audience for Netflix, want to make it more accessible, and we knew just how mobile-centric India has been,” said Ajay Arora, Director of Product Innovation at Netflix.

The move comes at a time when Netflix has raised its subscription prices in the U.S. by up to 18% and in the UK by up to 20%.

Netflix’s strategy shift in India illustrates a bigger challenge that Silicon Valley companies have been facing in the country for years. If you want to succeed in the country, either make most of your revenue from ads, or heavily subsidize your costs.

But whether finding users in India is a success is also debatable.

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Hear Hans Vestberg talk about the 5G opportunity at Disrupt SF 2019

Posted by | Disrupt SF 2019, events, hans vestberg, Media, Mobile, TC, TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019, Verizon | No Comments

The promise of 5G is staggering. With its ultra-high bandwidth and low latency, it has the potential to alter how consumers interact with technology. However, questions remain around its deployment, use cases and marketing.

We’re excited to have Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg sit down for a fireside chat at Disrupt SF to talk about the telecom’s 5G efforts. Vestberg took over Verizon on the eve of 5G.

Here’s the thing: Hans Vestberg is my boss. (Technically, he’s my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.) TechCrunch is owned by Verizon, operating under the Verizon Media Group, yet we remain editorially independent. Verizon doesn’t tell us what to write or not to write. Likewise, nothing is off-limits for this interview.

Verizon and other telecoms began rolling out the next-generation network to their subscribers this year. And the company has announced plans to launch 5G in at least 30 U.S. cities by the end of this year, even though there are limited hardware options and few marketable use cases.

How will consumers use 5G? When should startups begin building for 5G? How will Verizon educate consumers about real 5G versus fake 5G? We have questions, and we hope Vestberg has answers.

Vestberg became CEO of Verizon in August 2018, succeeding Lowell McAdam. Vestberg joined Verizon in 2017 as its CTO and VP of Network and Technology. Previously, he worked at Ericsson for 25 years, six of which he spent as CEO until he was ousted in 2016 following poor financial results.

Under McAdam, Verizon looked to media companies for additional channels for growth, notably acquiring Aol and Yahoo and merging the two into an ad-serving giant called Oath. Earlier this year Oath was renamed Verizon Media. Its future remains in question as rumors persist about Verizon wanting to spin out the division en masse or by dumping various brands like Huffpo or even TechCrunch.

Vestberg is joining Disrupt SF’s long list of speakers that includes other chief executives, such as Sebastian Thrun, Evan Spiegel, Rachel Haurwitz and many more. The three-day conference is shaping up to feature a fantastic speaker lineup covering all aspects of the startup world.

Tickets to the show, which runs October 2 to October 4 in SF, are available now.

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Mixhalo raises $10.7M to bring better sound quality to live events

Posted by | foundry group, funding, Media, MIXhalo, Mobile, Recent Funding, Startups | No Comments

Mixhalo — the startup co-founded by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and his wife, violinist Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger — has raised $10.7 million in Series A funding.

The company’s initial goal was to bring better sound quality to concerts. Instead of hearing music blasted out of speakers, users can connect their smartphone to a network (the startup creates its own wireless channel that doesn’t rely on the venue’s potentially overloaded Wi-Fi or cell networks). Then, through their earbuds, they’ll hear the same sound mix that the musicians receive through their in-ear monitors.

Mixhalo launched two years ago at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, where Incubus and investor Pharrell Williams took the stage to play a couple of songs. The sound arrived loud and clear through my earbuds, and the experience didn’t feel too different from a normal concert.

Since then, Mixhalo has also been used at Y Combinator Demo Day and deployed on tours by Charlie Puth, Incubus and Metallica, as well as Aerosmith’s current Las Vegas residency.

And at the beginning of this year, Marc Ruxin joined as CEO. Ruxin previously led the music discovery startup TastemakerX (which was acquired by Rdio), so this is clearly an area that interests him, but he told me that he wasn’t actually eager to return to the music business. However, he was wowed by Mixhalo’s sound quality, and as he talked to Einziger (who serves as the startup’s chief creative officer), he became convinced that the technology could be used at a wide range of events and venues — conferences, sports, museums, megachurches and more.

Plus, unlike other music startups, Ruxin said the business model here seemed appealingly straightforward: “We sell enterprise software to event organizers.”

mixhalo press 2up dark interpretation

When I’ve described the idea in the past, there’s usually some skepticism about whether concertgoers really care that much about sound, and concern about whether wearing headphones diminishes the social experience.

Ruxin countered Mixhalo offers a number of benefits beyond sound quality — there’s the ability for each listener to control their own volume, and an opportunity to create unique experiences, like offering multiple mixes for a single concert, or watching one band at a festival (or one presenter at Demo Day) while listening to another via Mixhalo.

He also argued that people don’t realize how bad most concert audio is until Mixhalo gives the chance to experience something better.

“We’re definitely solving a problem in music that people don’t realize they have,” he said, comparing it to watching an old TV and thinking it was fine, until you had the chance to watch in HD: “Now, sports that’s not in HD looks crappy.”

As for the effect on the social experience, Ruxin said the idea isn’t to turn the whole event into a silent disco. Instead, Mixhalo allows the audience members to choose the experience they want. And that can change from song to song — he recalled seeing some fans listen to Mixhalo for most of a concert, then take their headphones off to sing along with the hits. Others did the opposite, wanting to get the best sound quality on their favorite songs.

Ruxin said he’s primarily focused on music and sports for now, but he’s also open to working with partners outside those areas, because the technology can be installed in, say, a Broadway musical with “no technical tweaks.”

The funding was led by Foundry Group, with participation from Sapphire Sport, Founders Fund, Defy Partners, Cowboy Ventures, Red Light Management, Another Planet Entertainment, Rick Farman and Rich Goodstone of Superfly and Charlie Walker of C3. Mixhalo has now raised a total of $15 million.

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 17: (L-R) Pharrell Williams, founder and CEO of MIXhalo Mike Einziger and TechCrunch senior writer Anthony Ha speak onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 – Day 3 at Pier 36 on May 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

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Netflix will roll out a lower-priced subscription plan in India

Posted by | Amazon, Apps, Asia, Disney, Entertainment, Hotstar, india, Media, Mobile, Netflix, prime video, Spotify | No Comments

Netflix said on Wednesday that it will roll out a cheaper subscription plan in India, one of the last great growth markets for global companies, as the streaming giant scrambles to find ways to accelerate its slowing growth worldwide.

The company added 2.7 million new subscribers in the quarter that ended in June this year, it said today, far fewer than the 5 million figure it had forecasted earlier this year.

The company said lowering its subscription plan, which starts at $9 in the U.S., would help it reach more users in India and expand its overall subscriber base. The new plan will be available in India in Q3. According to third-party research firms, Netflix has fewer than 2 million subscribers in India.

Netflix started to test a lower-priced subscription plan in India and some other markets in Asia late last year. The plan restricts the usage of the service to one mobile device and offers only the standard definition viewing (~480p). During the period of testing, which was active as of two months ago, the company charged users as low as $4.

The company did not specify the exact amount it intends to charge users for the cheaper mobile-only plan. During the testing period, Netflix also provided some users the option to get a subscription that would only last for a week. The company also did not say if it intended to bring the cheaper plan to other markets. TechCrunch has reached out to Netflix for more details. (Update: Netflix declined to elaborate at this point.)

“After several months of testing, we’ve decided to roll out a lower-priced mobile-screen plan in India to complement our existing plans. We believe this plan, which will launch in Q3, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business in a market where Pay TV ARPU is low (below $5),” the company said in its quarterly earnings report.

The India challenge

Selling an entertainment service in India, the per capita GDP of which is under $2,000, is extremely challenging. The vast majority of companies that have performed exceedingly well in the nation offer their products and services at a very low price.

Just look at Spotify, which entered India earlier this year and for the first time decided to offer full access to its service at no cost to local users. Even its premium option that features playback in higher quality costs Rs 119 ($1.6) per month.

That’s not to say that winning in India, home to more than 1.3 billion people, can’t be rewarding. Disney-owned streaming service Hotstar, which offers 80% of its content catalog at no cost, has amassed more than 300 million monthly active users. There are about 500 million internet users in India, according to industry reports.

In fact, Hotstar set a global record for most simultaneous views to a live event — about 25.3 million users — during the recently concluded ICC cricket world cup. It broke its own previous records. Hotstar’s free offering comes bundled with ads, while its ad-free premium option costs Rs 999 ($14.5) for year-long access.

Amazon, another global rival of Netflix, bundles its Prime Video streaming service in its Prime membership, which includes access to faster delivery of packages and its music service, for Rs 999 a year.

For Netflix, the decision to lower its pricing in India comes at a time when it has hiked the subscription cost in many parts of the world in recent quarters. In the U.S., for instance, Netflix said earlier this year that it would raise its subscription price by up to 18%.

During a visit to India early last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the country could eventually emerge as the place that would bring the next 100 million users to his platform. “The Indian entertainment business will be much larger over the next 20 years because of investment in pay services like Netflix and others,” he said.

So far, Netflix has largely tried to lure customers through its original series. (Many popular U.S. shows such as NBC’s “The Office” that are available on Netflix’s U.S. catalog are not offered in its India palate.) The company, which has produced more than a dozen original shows and movies for India, this week unveiled five more that are in the pipeline.

“We are seeing nice, steady increases in engagement in India. Growth in that country is a marathon and we are in it for the long haul,” Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, said during an earnings call today.

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