Inside Indonesia’s love for digital subscriptions and premium accounts

Despite the threat of a recession, the demand for digital subscriptions in Indonesia is not dying down.


Entertainment forever: Indonesians prefer to prolong their digital subscriptions and premium accounts in numerous over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar for entertainment. (Unsplash/Glenn Carstens Peters)

November 29, 2022

JAKARTA – Despite the threat of a recession, the demand for digital subscriptions in Indonesia is not dying down.

YouTube, Spotify and Netflix are familiar names that attract millennials, Gen Z-ers and even Gen X-ers who crave even more fast-paced stimuli. Not to mention Disney+ Hotstar, MOLA and other over-the-top (OTT) services that have recently expanded to Indonesia.

There are obvious benefits to these paid or premium streaming services. Aside from advertisement-free content, subscribers have unlimited access to platforms. In the wake of analog switch-off, some could be seen searching for cheaper subscriptions of these services through social media.

Tiara Adinda, a 34-year-old radio announcer from Jakarta, doesn’t have to join that crowd. After all, before the analog switch-off, she had already subscribed to five streaming services—Netflix, Vidio, Spotify, Mola and Smule.

“I’ve been using Smule for six years now [to channel my singing hobby],” Tiara explained. “[I’ve subscribed] to Vidio for three years to watch football, plus two years to Netflix for movies and Spotify for music.”

Due to the pandemic, Tiara spent most of her time at home in the past two years and continued to renew her subscriptions to avoid boredom. Like Tiara, Kenza “Kenny” Emeraldy, also owns five paid streaming service accounts.

“At first, [I subscribed to] Spotify and then Netflix,” said the 28-year-old sports journalist. “[Subscription to] Mola and Vidio followed soon after. […] For the last 12 months, I’ve also subscribed to Disney+, thanks to the bundle offer from Telkomsel.”

There’s also another reason why Kenny chose to subscribe to these services—a moral one. “I just want to stream things legally,” he said. “It feels way better than to stream [content] illegally.”

Inside Indonesia’s love for digital subscriptions and premium accounts

Keep Smuling: One of Tiara Adinda’s first premium account subscriptions is Smule, a karaoke app that has social media functions. (Courtesy of Tiara Adinda/.)

Heads or tales

Kenny said he is not particularly burdened despite having five subscriptions to premium services simultaneously. However, he also added that he would stop subscribing if the platforms were to stop meeting his expectations—he’s already considering dropping one.

“I will probably stop my Disney+ [subscription] since I rarely use it. And maybe Mola [as well] if they were to lose the rights to [broadcast] [Ultimate Fighting Championship] UFC and Bundesliga,” he said. “[In the first place], Disney+ doesn’t cost me anything since [it comes as] a bundle with my monthly internet package.”

Kenny also enjoys support from his friends. For him and his circle, sharing a premium account or paid membership has been a popular way to show care to friends or family.

“One of my two Netflix accounts was paid for by my friends and the other Netflix plus Vidio and Mola were paid for by myself,” he said.

Content vs cash: Kenny Emeraldy is more concerned about losing his preferred content than the financial burden of the subscription. (Courtesy of Kenza Emeraldy/.)

Access to Netflix or other premium streaming services paid for by friends or family members is not a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. Netflix allows up to five different profiles to access one paid account, enabling customers to gain access to the service for a lower price.

Tiara also argued that, besides having some shared accounts, these subscriptions demand an insignificant amount of money. “[I don’t feel financially burdened because] these services are not too expensive and also I shared some of the subscriptions [so I can get them for cheaper],” she said.

With almost unlimited entertainment options that one could only possibly consume partially within 30 days, Tiara understood that she might have subscribed to too many streaming services. However, she still needed help picking one subscription to cancel.

“It’s hard to choose,” she said. “But if I had to [cancel one], it would be Smule. I rarely use that recently [anyway], but since it’s cheap, I still subscribe to it up to this moment.”

Ten a penny

Some older generations have long criticized their younger counterparts’ financial lifestyles and choices. They would point out that “unproductive” hobbies and spending, such as figurine collecting, premium coffee hunting, vaping and so forth, are primary reasons youngsters never have enough savings. Among the possibly long list are paid subscriptions and premium entertainment services

Indeed, economic experts have predicted a severe economic downturn, yet these youngsters are reluctant to let go of their on-demand entertainment. Certified financial planner Nadia Isnuari Harsya said that some factors compel people, especially millennials and Gen Z-ers, to deliberately opt for such expenses despite the reported upcoming recession.

“People tend to find something entertaining during the pandemic since they are restricted to having physical meetings,” said the Jakarta-based independent financial consultant. “Then we have the FOMO [fear of missing out] factor as well.”

Despite the tendency that FOMO is often associated with reckless behaviors, in this particular case, Nadia argued the opposite. “It’s a valid reason to spend money. In the fundamental personal financial planning theory, we suggest people have their lifestyle budget.”

Plan ahead: Nadia Isnuari Harsya sees the trend of multiple premium subscriptions as something harmless, as long as it comes with proper financial planning and management. (Courtesy of Nadia Isnuari Harsya/.)

According to Nadia, it is acceptable to subscribe to these services. However, such a decision calls for proper financial management to avoid future monetary difficulties.

“Always spend your money wisely on essential priorities—pay attention to your debt, savings, and investment,” she advised. “Constantly be mindful [of your finances] and make sure to subscribe to a service only [when you’re sure] you’d use it [frequently enough].”

According to Nadia, limiting spending items is an effective way to avoid chaos in one’s cash flow. She also suggested a priority list to control how and where one’s cash is being spent and a set limit for lifestyle-related spending.

“Set [your] priorities straight,” Nadia said. “As a rule of thumb, set a limit in your budget for lifestyle-related expenses at 20 percent of your income maximum.”

scroll to top