Why Isn’t An Online Streaming Solution Possible In India Yet

If you follow tech news you might have heard of Netflix and it’s recent success after adopting the streaming model. Their website says “For only $7.99 a month, you get unlimited movies & TV episodes instantly over the Internet to your TV or computer. There are no commercials, and you can pause, rewind, fast forward or re-watch as often as you like. It’s really that easy!”


Isn’t this great, for just Rs.400 a month, Netflix gives Video on demand on a lot of devices (PC,macs, mobile devices, gaming consoles etc.) with recommendations, resuming playback of movies/T.V shows where you left them off and a lot more. So if you’re watching a movie late in the night and you get too sleepy, you can shut off your movie and resume it the next day on your way to work on your phone.  We end up paying more for Tata sky which doesn’t even provide video on demand or multiple device viewing.

This model has helped Netflix become a major success in the US and Canada with Apple choosing to bundle a Netflix app on their Apple TV as well. This gets us wondering, why isn’t there a service similar to Netflix in India?

Although there have been a few companies which have tried to imitate the earlier Netflix model, i.e DVD rentals none of them have become hugely popular nor have they offered attractive policies like no late fees, no due dates etc. There was a post on gigaOM way back in 2006 pegging seventymm as India’s Netflix, obviously the service hasn’t caught on.
The posts points out a major hurdle for video rental services like these, piracy. With every railway station selling CDs of the latest movies on as soon as their release dates for as cheap as Rs.50 ($1), it becomes a bit difficult for the survival of this model, also with increasing penetration of the not-so-fast broadband in India, you see people downloading 700mb DVD rips from piratebay even if it takes them 24 hours.

So Indian players haven’t even succeeded in coming on par with the Netflix of the earlier years, let alone the current streaming based Netflix. The rental service not catching up is because these players haven’t been able to come up with an effective strategy, but the non existent streaming based service is majorly because of the pathetic internet service in India.

The Netflix page specifies minimum connection requirements for it to work fine “Watching instantly works with all different levels of broadband, however, we recommend a minimum speed of 500kpbs (0.5MB).” In average Indian homes unfortunately this sort of connectivity is absent. Speeds like these if offered by ISPs cost a lot. So right now if an Indian Netflix would startup it would remain restricted to the offices of Indian people where stuff like this isn’t permitted. Also the mobile market isn’t ready yet for on the move media viewing, the 3G tariffs are expensive, carriers aren’t ready yet to carry huge amounts of data on their network and a huge part of Indians still don’t have smart phones.

This coupled with the fact that many Indians don’t want to pay for something digital. For example: They won’t hesitate much to buy pirated CDs and DVDs but they have a problem buying a $.99 game from the AppStore. Fortunately this mindset is changing with the increasing penetration of Internet banking, online shopping etc. A lot of channels like NDTV, CNN, IBN, etc and events like the IPL are providing live streams online. So one can just hope for a Netflix like service to come up in India in the next five years. If they have enough partnerships for providing content then DTH services are doomed!

It was reported that Netflix’s competitor Google has also  launched a pay-per-view online service, in order to gain more traffic to their new service.

Are you looking forward to this kind of Netflix service in India? Tell Us

2 Responses to “Why Isn’t An Online Streaming Solution Possible In India Yet”

  1. April 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I wouldn’t say lack of appropriate bandwidth is preventing Netflix like services in India. Business models have to be adapted to suit Indian conditions. Someone down south sells movies on memory cards. That’s Indian business model. It’s not that Indians don’t like to pay for digital, Indians are bargain seekers and they know producing a digital copy costs next to nothing (Nevermind the original production cost). So people are willing to pay only a certain price for the digital content. And people accept that lower the price, lower will be the quality. Moser Baer understood that long back and they are doing quite well with that business model.

    BigFlix and Rajhshri are already providing streaming content on pay per view basis. Various news channels and YouTube are streaming lot of live content. So people already have decent enough bandwidth to watch lower resolution content which is more suited for may be a mobile phone. If 3G becomes widespread, people will start consuming streaming content on their mobiles. It just has to be provided at right price point. I’d be willing to pay say Rs. 200 per month for a Netflix like service INCLUDING the 3G data cost. But that’s me. Someone would say I will pay 1000, and someone would still want it all free.

  2. April 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    I agree moser baer nailed it with their pricing, but CDs and DVDs are going to fade away very soon, streaming is THE future

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