Even as some streaming services boldly go where no VOD provider has gone before, and charge customers cold hard cash, it’s still a race to the bottom. Hotstar has announced a promotional annual pricing of ₹1200 for its Premium subscriptions, which is around half the price of what 12 monthly subscriptions would be. This comes as newer streaming services like ALT Balaji and Amazon Prime Video aggressively compete on pricing to cater to India’s cost-sensitive consumers. Even Netflix, which bills itself as a premium service, is gritting its teeth when faced with new taxes in India and hasn’t changed its pricing.
Here’s a look at what the major streaming services’ pricing in India is like right now:
|Hotstar||ALT Balaji||Amazon Prime Video||Netflix||Eros Now|
* Promotional pricing that may be increased later
† Subscription pricing for a different period adjusted
How they’re getting subscribers
Until last year, Hotstar, which is probably India’s largest streaming service, did not have any paid plans. It was fully ad-supported, and most of its current revenue probably comes from ads too. And digital payments haven’t proliferated as much as the Indian government once hoped it would — the phrase ‘cashless society’ isn’t thrown around as much these days — so streaming providers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you charge users for your content and create a payment barrier that most users can’t or won’t cross; or do you just serve them ads like any other site? Hotstar chose to do both, and its promotional pricing cuts down an already-low price point.
And then there’s Amazon Prime Video. Amazon was once rumoured to be selling its Prime subscription in India for as high as ₹4000. But the company ended up selling Prime at a ‘promotional’ pricing of ₹499/year, which has continued months after the service launched here. Among other streaming services, Prime Video is perhaps the only service that it is financially irresponsible to not subscribe to. It is bundled with Prime, which offers free shipping and faster delivery on a large cross-section of Amazon’s catalogue. Amazon’s aggressively low pricing has only been matched by its vicious (perhaps even reckless) lineup of content deals, including Salman Khan films.
Netflix has chosen to largely remain above the fray in this pricing war. Billing itself as a “premium service”, the company has so far resisted caving to India’s price sensitivity. As of earlier this year, it only had 2–3 lakh subscribers in India. Even then, Netflix absorbed an 18% GST, even though it technically offers its service in India from a Dutch subsidiary. The company has said that it will open its office in Mumbai soon.
ALT Balaji allows users to preview a few episodes of its series, and has a paywall for further episodes. As of last month, MediaNama estimated that ALT Balaji has 2–2.7 lakh subscribers. The streaming service is an offshoot of Balaji Telefilms, which is one of India’s largest TV content producers, and makes content for multiple channels in different languages. ALT Balaji’s content has been decidedly edgier and targeted at younger audiences. Its pricing is fairly competitive, and the service has been offering discounts on their subscription rates since they launched.
Every streaming service has been trying its hand in temporary promotional pricing to woo consumers. Hotstar’s annual plan is half the pricing of its usual monthly price, and is probably aimed at getting some sports fans on board as the Premier League kicks off.
Prime Video has also been in ‘promotional’ mode since December last year; Amazon Prime is supposed to have a full pricing of ₹1000, but the marketplace giant is selling a subscription for half that price. This kind of medium-term discount is very characteristic of e-commerce companies like Amazon’s pricing strategy for India.
ALT Balaji has also had aggressive introductory pricing. The service is offering a full year at ₹300, a subscription it claims is worth ₹1080 otherwise.
Even Netflix, which has resisted price changes in India the most, has offered a few months of free Netflix for Vodafone customers, depending on what plan they have. However, as we have pointed out, it may actually turn out cheaper to get a different carrier’s data plans and get a full-price Netflix subscription than it would to get ‘free’ Netflix from Vodafone’s costly data plans.
Update: An earlier version of this piece said that ALT Balaji’s annual subscription value is ₹1800. That number is ₹1080, not ₹1800.