People

After discontinuing free trials, Netflix plans StreamFest promotion

The streaming service is looking to first test a free weekend in India.

After discontinuing free trials, Netflix plans StreamFest promotion

Anyone who wants to keep watching after the conclusion of the two-day event will have to sign up for a regular account.

Photo: Thibault Penin

Netflix is looking to promote its service with a 48-hour free streaming event, confirmed COO Greg Peters during the company's Q3 2020 earnings call Tuesday afternoon. Netflix is looking to first test the free streaming offer in India, and may bring it to other countries in the following months.

"We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend could be a great way to expose a bunch of new people to the amazing stories that we have," Peters said. "Really creating an event, and hopefully get a bunch of those folks to sign up."

Protocol was first to report earlier Tuesday that a recent version of the company's Android app includes mentions of a promotional event called StreamFest that's scheduled for Dec. 4 (hat tip to Mishaal Rahman). A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the plans for the event Tuesday morning, telling Protocol: "We're always looking at different marketing promotions to attract new members and give them a great Netflix experience."

If it happens as teased in the app's code, StreamFest will be accessible via any device that Netflix is currently available on, and users won't have to enter their credit card number to access free streaming. "We don't need any payment details — just your love and undivided attention," according to a text string found in the app. However, anyone who wants to keep watching after the conclusion of the two-day event will have to sign up for a regular account.

There seems to be some limitation on the number of people able to access the promotion, as one of the in-app text string informs users that "Netflix StreamFest is at capacity." Netflix frequently tests new features with a subset of its audience; limiting access could be one way to test StreamFest metrics against other forms of promotion.

Netflix's plans to launch StreamFest surface just days after the company discontinued 30-day free trials in the U.S. The event is similar to the way premium TV networks like HBO and Showtime have been promoting their programming for years. Showtime, for instance, was available for free to Comcast Xfinity cable subscribers for 48 hours in August.

Netflix's Q3 results came in below the company's already-cautious forecast. During the quarter, Netflix added 2.2 million paying subscribers worldwide, including less than 200,000 in North America. Executives attributed much of that to the company's outsized growth during the early months of COVID, and said that Netflix already had added more subscribers during the first nine months of 2020 than during all of 2019.

The pandemic also affected Netflix's production schedule, but co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that the company was on schedule to finish 150 productions by the end of the year. "We're back to near-steady state in physical production," Sarandos said. "Materially, we're back in business."

This post was updated throughout following Netflix's Q3 2020 earnings call.

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