Amazon Prime Video finally made its much-awaited entry in India’s OTT sector. The additional offering for Amazon’s Prime subscribers (available at Rs 499 per year), including existing ones, which allows users exclusive access to movies, Amazon’s original series and Bollywood movies ahead of their TV premiere was scheduled to launch since Diwali, before it finally was unveiled on December 14.
Nitesh Kripalani, Director and Country Head, Amazon Prime Video, India, feels the timing couldn’t have been more apt as he says, “It takes time in building a great service like Amazon Prime Video and ensuring that the content is right. It’s important to get the selection, features and playback right. The time is now. Amazon came 3.5 years ago. Look where’s it is now.”
Content is going to be Amazon’s strong core point in India going by its investment on the service, which is reported to be $300 million (close to Rs 2,000 crore). According to media reports, this is higher than annual programming budgets of top 3 Hindi general entertainment channels put together. Even though Kripalani hasn’t confirm the numbers, Amazon’s announcement of original series (nine in production and nine in development) for 2017 and 2018 and its licensed content somehow justifies the investment. The e-commerce giant has partnered with popular production houses such as Phantom Films (Stardust), Excel Media & Entertainment (Mirzapur, Power Play and Made in Heaven) and Big Synergy (Vishpuri) and content creators like AIB (The Ministry) for their diverse original content.
Kripalani says, “We want to change the way TV shows are made in India. In a diverse country we need to try different genres and see what works. What’s constant is reinventing and changing the way creators make content in India. That’s the core focus.”
Amazon had signed 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. Both licensed and original content are important components of Amazon’s content strategy. “Volume will be more licensed content whereas original content will be a great differentiator. The objective is to take content creators from India global. That’s the focus as well,” Kripalani added.
Tim Leslie, Vice President, Amazon Video, International, said, “We are making big investments in India in compiling exclusive content. India matters to us. We are going to continue to increase investment in original programming but there are movies and TV shows that customers want to watch. So we aggressively go after licensed content for our customers. Both original programming and licensed content are important for us.”
Kids and regional section hasn’t gone unnoticed as Amazon had signed long-term deals with Green Gold Animation (Super Bheem, Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju) and Japan-based TV Asahi Corporation (Doraemon, Shin chan, and Ninja Hattori) for kids’ content, and Tamil Nadu’s V Creations for its superhit films including Kabali and Theri.
Amazon has taken around a year to work on the content for the Indian audience. As James Farrell, Head of Content, Amazon Prime Video, Asia-Pacific, says, “People want the latest movies, right after release be it Hindi, English or regional. That’s what we really focused on with our licensing. Second is kids’ category. India is a young country where young parents want ad free content for their kids. There’s a great selection of kids content. Third thing is people want exclusive original content. That’s why we are going big on original content.”
Prime subscription in India is currently available at an introductory price of Rs 499 for a year, which is expected to go up to Rs 999 later. But none of the spokespersons hinted at that. Compared to the US where it costs $99, the pricing in India is beyond reasonable for Indian subscribers and stands out in the OTT sector in India. Netflix offers its lowest pack at Rs 500 per month, while Hotstar offers premium subscription at Rs 199 per month. Leslie makes it clear that it’s all about offering a compelling product, “For our Prime pricing we make sure whichever country we launch in, we have a compelling value proposition. We always look at the market to determine the right value proposition. Prime benefits vary slightly in different countries. We continue to make it better and better.”
When asked about entertainment industry’s biggest enemy, piracy, Leslie, as a matter of fact, treats it as an opportunity, ‘as an unmet consumer need.’ “If you can provide a great platform that solves customer needs and data issues, provides downloading for offline viewing it will be a much better customer experience than pirating content.”
He believes that Amazon Prime’s affordable subscription rate will not only drive in more users but will also help curb piracy, as he adds, “Customers who pirate content, can decide for Rs 499 that they can stop pirating and get great compelling content and free shipping of millions of items. We will give them more ways to watch. We will continue to innovate on playback and other technological issues to make it a more compelling opportunity. We are going to provide content in HDR.” Amazon Prime Video offers users low data usage and option to download and watch content offline.
When asked about their marketing plan, Leslie has ensured that ‘customers across India are made aware of Prime Video.’ He says, “There are millions of customers who come to our site every day. So that’s a place to let them know about our services. We will look into other mediums.”