If Netflix brought in 2016, Amazon Prime Video ended the year with a bang. India, home to 460 million internet users, is turning out to be the most favoured battleground for these two global players. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is reported to spend $300 million in India for Amazon Prime Video exclusively. Amazon had stitched content deals with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Mukesh Bhatt’s Vishesh Films, and Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series for their entire existing and upcoming films. Amazon’s announcement of original series (nine in production and nine in development) for 2017 and 2018 and its licensed content explains the investment. The e-commerce giant has partnered with popular production houses such as Phantom Films, Excel Media & Entertainment and Big Synergy and content creators like AIB for their diverse original content. Let’s not forget it already scored with its aggressive pricing (Rs 499 per year).
Meanwhile Netflix has been quietly working on its game to give the e-commerce a fierce competition. Let’s see what it’s up to:
For a seamless streaming experience
Lately there have been a couple of announcements by Netflix around the time of Amazon Prime Video launch in India. It’s a known fact that the global Internet streaming service has been working on a number of ways to providing a seamless experience. Last month it finally introduced the option of offline content consumption with the download feature to its users, a feature that has become a must-have in emerging markets with spotty internet.
Efforts have been taken to deal with the connectivity issues in India like adaptive screening but the streaming experience is still far from smooth. But this could change. Netflix is reported to be in talks with all telecom operators like Airtel , Reliance Jio , Vodafone and others to sign them in on their Open Connect project. Through this project Netflix is looking to place custom-build caching servers called Open Connect Devices in data centers of all these major internet services providers, which means Netflix customers in India will not have to stream a show from servers all the way in the US but from a copy hosted on a server closer to it in Asia. More importantly, these Open Connect Devices will also work on Netflix’s algorithms that will enable it to determine the popular shows based on users’ current watching behaviour and proactively cache predicted content. This could improve the experience by leaps and bounds.
On content front
A day after the launch of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix’s subscribers, both in and around the world were informed about global streaming service’s first tie-up with Indian production house Red Chillies Entertainment (RCE). This association will bring all the latest movies starring actor Shah Rukh Khan exclusively to more than 86 million members globally. The first title that will come on Netflix is ‘Dear Zindagi’ which was released theatrically on November 25. It just proves that the global rivalry is getting more pronounced.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos mentioned, “Shah Rukh Khan is the most sought-after actor in the Indian film industry, and has played a huge role in bringing Indian cinema to the world stage. His monicker ‘King Khan’ speaks to his status as a cultural icon and to the incredible popularity of his films among audiences worldwide.”
This will boost Netflix’s local library which was earlier criticized for being limited. Netflix initially acquired some Indian arthouse films and a smattering of Bollywood and regional language fare.
In original content (for India) Netflix had signed a deal with leading stand-up comedian Vir Das for an original comedy series earlier. In the middle of 2016 it had roped in production house Phantom Films (also aboard Amazon Prime) to create a local web-series based on an acclaimed Indian novel.
The company had mentioned that it will spend roughly $6 billion producing more than 1,200 hours of original content in 2017, which is $1 billion more than it spent this year.
It’s obviously a matter of wait and watch to understand the emergence of market leader. But the digital consumer is clearly turning out to be the winner with the host of OTT services at aggressive pricings served on a platter.