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NEW DELHI: Video streaming platforms are making a last quick attempt to enroll more users as the year draws to a close, having made significant gains earlier at the peak of the pandemic.

While Netflix had a two-day ‘Stream Fest’ for free viewing earlier this month, Lionsgate Play launched independently last month with a two-week free trial available. Amazon Prime Video too launched a new ad to remind users of its 30-day free trial period. Touted as a response to arch rival Netflix’s marketing blitzkrieg, the 37-second ad called ‘No Fest, Just Facts’ debuted on YouTube earlier this month with a description that read “Free streaming of unlimited blockbuster entertainment, TV shows, Amazon originals and premium movies for not just 2 but 30 complete days."

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Netflix that saw eight lakh mobile downloads of its app in India during the two-day trial, according to analytics firm Apptopia, and had to extend the offer over the week as Stream Fest ran to full capacity.

To be sure, several OTTs had pushed out free offers at the beginning of the lockdown earlier this year. Media experts say a free trial is a good way to get many fence-sitters to try the content, form a connect with them and eventually start customising offerings for them and get them to stick on.

“We look at the two-week trial period as sampling. India is a new market for us and before the consumer signs up for our service, we are happy to let him sample the content as we are very confident of our catalogue and slate. As a pure play SVoD service, we feel two weeks is the ideal time for a consumer to decide if they would want to sign up for our premium service," Rohit Jain, managing director, Lionsgate South Asia, said. Lionsgate is expecting an uptick in subscriptions as the year-end holiday season rolls in, especially since this year, traveling has taken a backseat.

“But this is a momentary phase. If the outflow of content is not consistent, there will be dips. Indian viewers have evolved a lot in recent times. Though there are multiple choices, if you are able to target your consumer sharply with the kind of content he or she is seeking, there is no reason they will not stay longer," Jain added.

Established OTT players have been spending heavily on content this year, pointed out Balkrishna Hari Singh, founder and CEO, Frenzi - a single window search and recommendation app for streaming content. “As they start rolling out budgets for next year, they need to understand what to pick and a strategy like this gives them deep insights on what people want to see," Singh said.

The move becomes especially important considering the number of new players constantly entering the market and that local services like SonyLIV have been giving American giants a run for their money lately with sleeper hits like Scam 1992-The Harshad Mehta Story.

“There is no better way of getting feedback from the user and assess what’s working from a language, genre and spending perspective to take data-driven decisions on where to focus," said Vishal Shah, managing partner at GroupM-owned media agency MediaCom pointing to how FMCG companies have given out free sachets for years.

The general assumption is that when a person comes on to the service on a free trial, there is no way he can consume the entire library available, said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency. So, they will eventually stick on, once lured enough.

“OTTs may not be making money in the short run (by giving out free offers) but they know the potential of each country and have far-stretched visions. To win the bigger battle, they may have to lose smaller ones," Gupta said.

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