Netflix will allow viewers in India to stream for free

The streaming service is trying to attract more subscribers in one of the biggest TV markets in the world.
The Netflix app is displayed alongside other streaming media services on the homepage of a Roku Streaming Stick. (Photo: Matthew Keys / Flickr Creative Commons)

Netflix will offer free access to its catalog of original series and licensed movies and TV shows to viewers in India during a special campaign early next month.

The event, called StreamFest, starts December 5 and will be available to anyone using a device that is compatible with Netflix and won’t require users to provide a credit card in order to access its content.

“At Netflix, we want to bring the most amazing stories from across the world to all fans of entertainment in India,” Netflix said in a blog post. “It’s why we’re hosting StreamFes — an entire weekend…of free Netflix, so, anyone in India can watch all the blockbuster films, the biggest series, award-winning documentaries, and entertaining reality shows for two whole days.”

Though it won’t require users to sign up with a credit card, viewers who are interested in taking part in StreamFest will still have to create a profile with their name, email address and phone number. They’ll also need access to a device like a smartphone or smart TV compatible with the streaming service.

Netflix says it will limit users to a single standard definition video stream, and it will only offer a certain number of free streamers to watch content during StreamFest at any given time, so some users might not be able to gain access right away.

“If you see a message saying ‘StreamFest is at capacity,’ don’t worry — we’ll let you know when you can start streaming,” the company said.

StreamFest is another experiment by Netflix as it seeks to attract more subscribers in one of the biggest television markets in the world. Earlier this year, Netflix said it would offer a low-cost plan to customers that gave customers in India access to its library of content on their smartphones — but not on other devices. The subscription plan costs around $5 a month, a few dollars cheaper than Netflix’s cheapest stateside plan.

That budget offering followed a similar one rolled out in India last year that allowed customers to watch Netflix content in standard definition — again, only on their phones — for as little as $3 a month.

Netflix’s aggressive moves comes as it seeks to target millions of streaming TV users in India who are more likely to own a budget smartphone than a tablet or streaming TV device, particularly in suburban and rural parts of the country.

Though the infrastructure in parts of India still has yet to catch up with broadband connections in other countries, it doesn’t mean customers aren’t signing up for streaming TV: Currently, Disney’s Hotstar service leads the pack there with over 300 million subscribers as of the middle of this year. Other streaming services that have attracted a significant audience include SonyLIV, Amazon Prime Video India, and a free service offered by ViacomCBS called Voot.

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