Mobile Working

How Netflix can tap the $70 billion mobile opportunity in developing markets

This is a contributed piece by Marco Veremis, CEO & Co-founder of Upstream


As the demand for digital content and services continues to grow, particularly on mobile, developing markets represent a $70 billion revenue opportunity for digital service providers and brands like Netflix. The annual Developing Markets Mobile Commerce report looks at the changing attitudes of mobile users in high growth markets. This surveyed over 5000 adults in Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa and discovered that 87% of consumers make daily use of mobile devices for accessing digital services and 87% are willing to pay for high-value digital services.

Despite Netflix’s expansion into 130 countries last year, the company’s first quarter earnings and international subscription growth were lower than expected. Projections for the second quarter have also been modest.  

What is the reason for this? Perhaps Netflix’s one-size fits all strategy does not take into account the economic and technological intricacies of its new markets?

The consumer appetite for Netflix is clearly there. In the research, Netflix was the brand that surveyed consumers would like to access most via their mobile device. Over a quarter (26%) named Netflix, ahead of Apple Music (25%), BBC News (20%), Amazon Prime (17%) and Spotify (13%). However, relevance of digital services, and the underlying factors of affordability, accessibility, and content are critical in developing markets and brands need to address these by adjusting their business and delivery strategies, accordingly.



The varied income and purchasing power of consumers in developing markets like Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa means brands need to adopt differential pricing strategies that reflect these discrepancies. While Netflix introduced pricing in Brazil that is 39% lower than that in the US, in other markets the income differential can be as much as 94% lower. 88% of consumers said pricing adjusted to local currency and low data charges would influence their decision to purchase digital services.

In Brazil it takes five hours 17 minutes of work at the minimum wage to pay for the cost of subscribing to a service like Netflix ($4.89 a month in Brazil.) For South African and Egyptian consumers this rises to nearly eight and a half hours of work, and for consumers in Nigeria this equates to around 15 hours.

This doesn’t account for the cost of streaming video or music for consumers in such emerging markets where mobile broadband is the most prevalent method to connect to the internet. A typical 1GB data package costs around $15 a month in Brazil. A single House of Cards episode streamed at standard definition can cost consumers $9.90 on top of their subscription to Netflix, the equivalent of two working days on minimum wage.



Internet access is still an issue in developing markets and 61% of consumers in the markets surveyed feel unsatisfied with their current mobile connection, with 25% stating it is unreliable and 36% stating it is slow. As a result, over a third of consumers (40%) want brands to provide ‘lite’ versions of their digital services. As these digital services are being consumed through multiple delivery channels on mobile devices (43% web browsers, 40% apps), providers cannot rely on apps alone to reach consumers in emerging markets. In addition, while the penetration of smartphones is growing, the majority of mobile phones are web-enabled non-smartphones. Brands, like Netflix, seeking to achieve success in emerging markets, will benefit from embracing a technology agnostic approach when it comes to the format and delivery of their digital services.



Localisation of content is key for consumers in emerging markets; with over three quarters (76%) wanting the digital services they consume to have a substantial local feel.  In Brazil, video services are used by 62% of consumers, with 92% of respondents requiring at least a balanced mix between local and international content in their preferred streaming services. Netflix’s move towards producing exclusive Bollywood content for its Indian offering, is a step in the right direction. The company acknowledges the need to adapt its content strategy to make it relevant to local audiences.


Also read:

Internet TV 2026 report: The 13 things to know


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