Netflix is big. So big that, during peak hours in America, the online video streaming service accounts for nearly 37% of all internet usage. That's bigger than its three-biggest competitors – including YouTube – combined. it's so big that it's even made its way into teenage slang. And it's now in India.
On Wednesday the company announced that it was going global and suddenly it was everywhere. The American streaming service, which has spent the last few years making its own content, is now available in 170 countries worldwide.
Indian users will have access to its library of content with plans beginning at just Rs 500 per month, with the service offering a one-month trial period for free. For a little more money, users get to watch its content in high definition and can also use a single account on several different screens, whether it's TV, laptop, tablet or phone.
The content has some of the stuff that you would expect on Netflix, including TV shows like Narcos and Daredevil, foreign movies as well as some Indian ones like Piku and Lootera (and Andaaz Apna Apna). According to Netflix, they don't publish a number of titles that they have on offer, but the library should include almost all of their 30 original series and hundreds of others with a limited amount of local content at launch. One glaring outlier is the political thriller drama House of Cards, which the company had already licensed to Zee and so doesn't show up in the library.
"In 2016 we plan to spend about US$5 billion on programming rights, including many titles that will be exclusive to Netflix around the world," the company told The Reel, adding that it also expects to double the size of its content catalogue within the first year. "That includes more than 30 new Netflix original series (or seasons of existing series.) Most of these will be available to our members everywhere, exclusively on Netflix. That’s more than one full new season of a series every other week."
Netflix says that it is an on-demand service with ratings guides and a PIN-code system for parental guidance, meaning it doesn't expect to be censored any more than it is in America.
The company is in some ways going up against a number of competitors all of which launched over the last year selling themselves as the 'Netflix of India.' This includes Star India's Hotstar app, which already has millions of users, Singapore-based Hooq – with Sony Pictures and Warner Bros as backers, Pritish Nandy Communications' Ogle, ErosNow, DittoTV, BoxTV and more. There's also YouTube, which had 60 million unique users in India who spend more than 48 hours per month viewing content in 2015, according to Forbes. And of course, the real competition comes from torrents and illegal content streaming websites, which have for decades now offered, for free, the service that Netflix is now hoping to provide.
Access to the internet could still end up being the company's biggest obstacle to growth, considering the limited penetration of broadband in India as well as millions of users who survive on connections that include low data caps. One reason that torrents are more popular than streaming is because they allow you to download high-quality videos even at slow speeds, albeit without the convenience of on-demand content.
Netflix is trying to address this by offering four different types of data usage, but a heavy user can still expect to hit their data cap pretty soon. There have been rumours about Netflix subsidising its own data usage to offer its service to users for cheaper, but doing that will involve going up against India's net neutrality activists.
The company also appears to be running up against another problem: payments. Medianama reported that it is violating the Reserve Bank of India's requirement for two-factor authentication for online payments, the same issue that got taxi aggregator Uber into trouble with authorities earlier.
As for the teenage slang, Indian users should be forewarned that an invitation to "Netflix and chill" doesn't suggest a quiet evening watching Jessica Jones. It's actually slang for sex, and more fodder for Netflix-in-India jokes.