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Netflix to enter India, DTH companies edgy

Times of India:  June, 2015

New Delhi: After Singapore-based on-demand internet video provider Hooq launched operations here, the pioneer of internet TV, US-based Netflix, has firmed up plans to enter India by 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

This has sent domestic DTH players into a tizzy with some of the major ones chalking out strategies to diversify beyond television. On the cards are iconic shows including Buniyaad, Nukkad and Malgudi Days on various mobile devices across iOS and Android.

"It's similar to Starbucks entering India. Everybody knew about it but cafe brands were late to react and Starbucks came and stole the show. We don't want to be caught on the wrong foot," a Tata Sky spokesperson told TOI.

Netflix is one of the leading on-demand internet streaming media companies in the world with around 62 million subscribers. More than 40 million of those users are in the US, a market which has become crowded with HBO Now, Sling TV and Sony entering the content streaming segment. Even Hooq, which lets a user stream and download movies and TV shows in India for Rs 199 per month, is a joint venture between SingTel, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Television.

With 4G about to become a nationwide reality soon, it's no surprise that Netflix wants to enter the market, which is leading the world in mobile internet user growth. According to a recent report by one of Silicon Valley's leading VC firms Kleiner Perkins, India leads the world's internet user growth across all platforms.

"We have said we plan to be nearly global by the end of 2016. We have nothing else to share at this point," a Netflix spokesperson said in an e-mail, while replying to a questionnaire sent by TOI.

A Tata Sky spokesperson said that the Mumbai-based company is in talks with various content providers. Content could be in the form of television shows or movies that would be made available across iOS and Android platforms for a fee. "It could also be your smart TV," she said.

There are several video-on-demand players present here including Hotstar, Ogle, Big Flix and Spuul but satisfying customer service has been limited due to scratchy internet connections. "

Netflix and HBO have already demonstrated scalable business models. But, a lot will depend on content as well as technology. Current streaming costs might limit their potential," said Salil Kapoor, COO at Dish TV, one of India's largest DTH players.