Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service with more than 222 million subscribers, continues to grow steadily, looking beyond mature markets for growth opportunities. Most new Netflix subscribers are now outside of the United States and Canada, the company's first two markets.
Mature markets are saturated
Netflix was founded in the United States in 1997 and expanded to Canada in 2010. These two countries are now mature streaming markets for Netflix and are saturated by competition, including Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, and many, many more. There are about 50 streaming services in North America alone.
Netflix now streams in more than 190 countries. When Netflix first expanded, it identified countries that were geographically close and culturally similar to the United States, a strategy that allowed Netflix to grow with as few obstacles as possible. Today, Netflix looks for mobile-focused countries with high broadband penetration.
The company’s primary target audience in each country has usually been wealthy, young consumers. After reaching this audience, Netflix tries to reach a larger audience. It then works for local producers to create local content that fits within the culture.
Eyes on India
Many things about India are attractive to Netflix, including its growing middle class, its strong film industry, and its growing internet infrastructure. Though several years ago Netflix’s CEO claimed the company would score 100 million subscribers in India, the streaming giant has only secured 5.5 million subscribers to date, according to Media Partners Asia.
Netflix’s CEO has expressed frustration with the lack of growth in India. The company hoped to gain more momentum with its successful Sacred Games show, a locally produced Hindi-language drama, but the company continues to struggle. India, being the second-most populated country in the world, would be a major prize for Netflix if it can crack the code. Disney and Amazon have been more successful in the country, attracting millions more viewers.
One problem Netflix has faced in India is pricing. Paid television is much less expensive in India than in other countries (about $2 to $3 per month), so Netflix’s price tag in the country (about $7.50) was not as attractive to the young audience Netflix typically targets. Eventually, Netflix admitted its pricing strategy was not working and lowered the price to be more competitive. The company added a mobile-only option at a lower rate.
While adjusting its pricing attracted more subscribers, Netflix has faced a churn problem. Churn refers to subscribers who do not renew their subscriptions. The company’s mobile-only subscribers have a higher churn rate than its other subscribers on the premium plans. Additionally, unlike in the United States where recurring subscription transactions occur automatically, consumers in India are afforded the option to approve monthly payments thanks to local laws, contributing to the number of people who cancel each month.
Netflix has also struggled with local programing because India is so much more diverse than other countries. India’s dozens of ethnic groups speak more than 20 languages.
Looking to the future
Though Netflix’s success in India has been slow, many believe the streaming giant can pull through in the long run. The company had a challenging time gaining traction in Brazil and Japan, for example, but it finally found its footing. It is projected that Netflix will have 8 million subscribers in India by year’s end.
In the Classroom
This article can be used to discuss global business (Chapter 3: Business in a Borderless World).
Describe Netflix’s international expansion strategy.
Why is India an attractive country to Netflix?
Why has Netflix struggled to perform well in India?
This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell and Linda Ferrell.
Brian Withers and Brian Stoffel, "How Netflix Will Power Global Growth," The Motley Fool, April 16, 2021, https://www.fool.com/investing/2021/04/16/how-netflix-will-power-global-growth/
Daniel Howley, "How Netflix’s Overseas Expansion Fueled Its Explosive Growth in Subscribers," Yahoo Finance, January 20, 2021, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/netflix-international-expansion-fueled-subscriber-growth-225708669.html
Joshua Brustein and Cristina Lindblad, “Netflix’s India Drama,” Bloomberg Businessweek, April 4, 2022, p. 16-18.
Julia Alexander, "Netflix Already Won the Us; Now It Needs the World," The Verge, February 20, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/20/21142065/netflix-streaming-wars-subscriber-growth-disney-international