Netflix Executive Sheds Light on Mobile-Only Pricing Plans in Asia

Courtesy of Netflix

The streaming giant launched mobile device subscription plans in Thailand and India in the last six months.

A Netflix executive shed some light Wednesday on the streaming giant's recent experiments with mobile-only subscription plans in select Asian markets.

During a presentation at the APOS Summit, a media, entertainment and telecommunications industry gathering in Bali, Indonesia, Bill Holmes, Netflix’s global head of business development, said the streaming giant had rolled out mobile-only subscription offerings in Thailand in November. The company also is known to be discretely experimenting with such offerings in India and Malaysia.

The plans, which cost about half as much as a standard full Netflix subscription, already have helped the streamer reach more viewing on mobile than on traditional screens in some Asian markets, such as Thailand, Holmes said.

"We’re excited about the growth we have seen, but we still have a tremendous way to go," he said. "For us, it’s really about constantly looking in each market at what are the next friction points we can address and how do we continue to improve the service to offer more value to our members."

Although Netflix is expanding rapidly in international markets, its pricing has been seen as a hurdle to subscriber growth in some developing Asian countries, where disposable income levels are low by global standards — including the massive India market.

In India, subscriptions for Disney-Fox's dominant Hotstar streaming service — a chief Netflix rival — are as low as about $3 per month. Southeast Asian speciality streamer Hooq, backed by Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Singtel, also offers very competitive pricing in the region — as little as $1.30 per month in some markets — as well as various other subscription models tailored to local needs, including day passes, mobile-only plans and pay-per-view options.

In comparison, Netflix's cheapest full monthly plan in India is $7.30, and about $7 in the Philippines. 

Such differences have encouraged Netflix to “experiment more with different pricing models that are a better fit for the market,” Holmes said at APOS.

“We might find that [one new model] works very well, and we’ll roll that out broadly, or we might find that the current way we’re testing it is not effective and we’ll keep working on it, but basically as a plan that is considerably less expensive than our basic plan, about half the price," he added. "So we’ll see if that works from the perspective of not just acquiring new members, but also in terms of retention and paid revenue if that is a win for us."