Netflix has witnessed a dramatic jumping in video viewing in the past months, attributed to people confined at home due to the COVID-19. Cinemas, theatres, and other entertainment venues have been closed for months.

Netflix is no stranger to running some experiments in growing their users worldwide. Most of their experiments have been targeted to India that included a mobile-only subscription plan. They even made The Patriot Act also available on YouTube.

If you’ve been planning on subscribing to Netflix, their new experiment has gone global. Non-subscribers have the opportunity to watch some of their Originals TV shows and movies without any strings attached. No need to make a trial account at all.

Sounds too good to be true by Netflix?

A visit to the Watch Free page shows “Stranger Things,” “Murder Mystery,” “Elite,” “Bird Box,” “When They See Us,” “The Two Popes,” “Our Planet” and “Grace and Frankie”. This is all available to non-subscribers across all the nearly 200 nations and territories where it is operational.

Netflix's Watch Free page.
Watch it via your web browser

That means even the Middle East region has the opportunity to sample their content offering. It’s as simple as visiting the Watch Free page on the Netflix website. However, there are a few catches to this:

  • Netflix decided on which Netflix Originals TV shows and/movies you can watch.
  • It works via web browsers on macOS, Windows, Android, and iPadOS (no iOS browsers are supported, according to their Help Center FAQ).
  • TV shows will have only the first episode for viewing.
  • For the full-length movies, you can watch them uninterrupted but there is a 30s skippable pre-roll ad.

This is quite an ambitious endeavour by Netflix. given that they have seen rising number of subscribers from their recent quarterly results. In addition, it does put a bit of pressure on their next big competitor Disney+ (who have partnered with OSN for their Originals), who haven’t even officially launched in the Middle East but are in India via Hotstar.

In a way to keep their proposition fresh, they may cycle through the content on their Watch Free page. I would suggest that they tailor it to different regions, to help promote original content being made for the region.

As for how long Netflix will keep this experiment running, I’ve reached out to them with the same question. Let’s hope they use it as a means to promote some of their upcoming originals as well.

Posted by:Yasser Masood

Think of me as a grassroots community evangelist. Juggling social media while covering technology/digital trends across the Middle East and crossroads of society and culture, while unearthing other perspectives that pique my interests.

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