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August 17, 2020, 04.10 PM

SINGAPORE, – Netflix is stepping up plans to push for more mobile-only subscription plans in Southeast Asia before Disney+ Hotstar launches in Indonesia in September.

The US streaming giant is additionally planning to expand its local content, as told by Netflix’s senior executives to Reuters.

This strategy comes just as arch-rival Disney is gearing up to have its share of the fast-growing market.

Read also: Netflix Stock Tumble, Taps Ted Sarandos as Co-CEO

Netflix shared with Reuters that the more than 1 million of its entire subscribers are in Southeast Asia in a market home to around 655 million people.

Currently, the company has close to 200 million global subscribers.

As such, analysts find many opportunities ripe for rapid growth.

With Disney+ Hotstar poised to arrive next month, Southeast Asia is bound to become a key battleground for streaming service companies.

"What we see in Southeast Asia is that it's a very mobile-centric market", Netflix director for product innovation Ajay Arora told Reuters in a recent interview. That's led the company to push cheaper mobile plans and adapt its product to fit lower-end smartphones, Arora said.

Read also: Indonesia Switches On Campaign to Get Everyone Online

Southeast Asia is estimated to have generated $600 million in overall subscription music and video revenue in 2019, according to a study by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Co — but that's set to explode to an annual $3 billion by 2025, the study said.

Starting with India in August 2019, Netflix has now launched mobile-only plans in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia - all priced at below $5 a month.

That's a departure for Netflix, which has held firm on pricing in Western markets.

Repeated coronavirus lockdowns across Southeast Asia have also increased the appetite for content streaming at home across the region.

A Netflix spokeswoman told Reuters that the firm "has well over 1 million subscribers in multiple Southeast Asian countries", but declined to provide details.

Consultancy Media Partners Asia estimates that Southeast Asia video streaming service subscribers will reach 14.7 million in all by the end of 2020.

Read also: Indonesian President Jokowi: ASEAN Must be Subject of Global Politics

Netflix executive Arora said his firm is also working to expand its payment options in countries with low credit and debit card penetration.

In markets like the Philippines, subscribers can pay for Netflix through their mobile telephone plans, or by purchasing prepaid Netflix cards at convenience stores.

The company faces competition in the region not just from Disney+, a distant, but ambitious, global no. 2 in the industry.

Other regional rivals include Hong Kong video service Viu, popular for its Korean dramas, as well as Chinese tech giant Tencent's WeTV, which in June bought the assets of Malaysian streaming platform Iflix.

Disney+ is currently in the middle of a hiring spree across the region and is expected to launch broadly in the coming months jointly with its Indian streaming platform Hotstar.

Read also: Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah Promises 5.6 Million Jobs for Indonesians

Disney's family and superhero movies have proven consistent hits in Southeast Asia.

In Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country with 270 million people, Disney+ said last week it would start operating in September in partnership with state-owned telco Telkomsel with a catalogue that will include more than 300 local movies.

Bracing for the challenge, Netflix Southeast Asia content lead Myleeta Aga told Reuters that the firm, which announced two new original Indonesian productions earlier last Thursday, places high importance on the region and will continue to ramp up local content offerings.

She said Netflix expects to start filming projects in Indonesia and Thailand soon. (Writer: Fanny Potkin | Editor: Kenneth Maxwell)


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