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Netflix offers some originals for free in a first

Netflix is now offering a few TV shows and films for free, a first for the company. Earlier, the only way to preview Netflix content for free was to either watch the select titles that the company put out on its YouTube channel (like the show Explained, that the company made with media company Vox), or sign up for a free trial. OnlyTech first spotted the development. While films are available in their entirety, only first episodes of TV shows are available, beyond which viewers are prompted to subscribe.

Earlier this year, free trials were discontinued in markets like India. The previews are, however, available even in countries like the US, where one month trials are still an option. “We’re looking at different marketing promotions to attract new members and give them a great Netflix experience,” Netflix said, indicating that this promotion may not be permanent.

Offering some titles for free this way, like Our Planet, likely costs Netflix little to nothing, as they have accumulated an enormous catalogue of original content over the years. But the company has shied away from letting users preview its content, like Hulu in the US or several OTT players in India have commonly done. The farthest it has gone to do this on Netflix itself was offering the Hindi show Bard of Blood for free for non-members last year. Without a free trial in India, these previews may be the only Netflix-sanctioned way to legally sample the catalogue right now. The company earlier tested offering trials at Rs 5 in India.

Payments remains a friction point, with the company only accepting credit and debit cards on the website. Carrier billing is available on some ISPs and telecom operators, but is usually only available for new customers. Netflix was testing new pricing for its Basic plan in India, with HD device support (minus TVs). We couldn’t find that plan now, indicating that the test may have ended.

Earlier this month, the company debuted its Hindi UI, localising a large part of its library.

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Update (September 2): This piece has been updated with Netflix’s statement, and further details on marketing experiments the company has carried out for non-subscribers.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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