35% of our viewers come from tier 2 and tier 3 towns: Vijay Subramaniam, Amazon Prime

Director & Head - Content, Amazon Prime Video India spoke about the rise of video streaming platforms in India and how Amazon Prime Video is looking to tap the vast market potential

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Sep 19, 2018 8:59 AM Updated: Sep 19, 2018 8:59 AM

Video steaming platforms are fast changing the way content is getting consumed. The new high in content driven entertainment, spearheaded by players like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, have forced traditional players to up their game.

In an interview with exchange4media, Vijay Subramaniam, Director & Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India spoke about the rise of video streaming platforms in India and how Amazon Prime Video is looking to tap the vast market potential shaped by low cost data and hyper proliferation of smartphones.

Excerpts:

How would you describe the video streaming market in India?


I think we are just about to get started. India is a huge country and there are several opportunities. What is exciting is that it is never one India; it is so many different India’s. There are opportunities and creative challenges to tell stories that appeal to all of them and various segments within them. So I think this journey has just begun. I would say that the next five years are going to be super exciting for customers overall as they get access to stories that did not have any place to be told earlier.

A lot of new players have entered the video on demand space in big way, how do you plan to stay ahead in this competition?

As I said it is a really vast place. I think it's really important to understand how we look at driving value for our customers. Everything that we do, we start with the customer in mind. It is very important for us to understand the existing tastes and preferences when it comes to entertainment, as well as stay lockstep as those tastes and preferences evolve. So we are really guided by how we are doing the best we can in fulfilling the entertainment needs of our customers. Given how diverse the country is, and given the great opportunities to tell stories, it is a vast runway ahead.

What kind of an evaluation process do you follow at Amazon Prime before embarking on new projects?

Our evaluation process is very rigorous and an elaborate one. The important thing is that it is driven by the existing tastes and preferences of customers that we are looking to fulfill. So, our selection criteria are very rigorous, both on the creative side, as well as from an insight and strategy side. Variety is critical and we believe it is important to look at genres that matter.

Moreover, we are always looking at what need is it fulfilling, which entertainment hook is it attempting to anchor itself on and how is it creating value to what we are doing overall. So these are all the things that we go through thoroughly. It is a lot of fun, though it may sound very clinical, because it is also a creative process and you are building something from scratch.

How has the number game been for you so far?

We are very happy with where we are. I must admit that the Prime membership program, Prime Video being part of it, has seen robust growth. We have seen a growth of 3X in numbers, interestingly, 35 per cent of our viewers come from tier 2 and tier 3 towns and that is another interesting fact right there. As I said, there are many India's that we are catering to, and it is really important to be able to reflect their tastes and preferences when it comes to entertainment, as well as we can, and keep evolving with it.

We also know that it is absolutely essential to consistently deliver value to them and that's what the Prime membership program attempts to do. We believe we are in it for the long run and there is a massive opportunity here. Last year we launched one show, this year we are going to six, next year we hope to be at 10 and then at 12 and keep building on that. This gives a clear indication of the kind of ambition we have to be able to serve our customers here.

Tell us about your strategy for regional space?

Localisation is very important for us. If you look at our content, we are available in five regional languages. There is Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Marathi, that itself is a very strong indicator of how committed we are about making sure that we are able to serve the length and breadth of customers in India.

We also recognise that no two customers of ours are alike and so it is important to provide variety. Local relevance is important for us because it drives deeper engagement and an emotional connect with customers. So our path to regional content has always been very clear. It is just that we go about building it in a very thorough manner and you will see us continue to expand as we add more languages to the content mix.

In your view, what are the biggest challenges for video streaming players in India?

I will speak for Prime video; all these are very positive challenges that we have. The first one is the creative challenge, I mean there are so many stories, which ones do you pick and which ones do you build on, and that's such a wonderful creative challenge. The second is really within the content ecosystem, the infrastructure. It needs to come to a global standard very quickly, I am not saying it does not exist, but it may not be as consistent. The third challenge is about understanding that when it comes to great stories, the battle is won and lost in the writing.

The general perception is that online streaming platforms have brought back focus on great content and have rattled mainstream entertainment players, is that the case in real?

I don't think so. I can't speak for others and how they react to a creative challenge but I do emphasise on how inspiring it has become for creators. What it has allowed them is to raise the bar. If they were finding other mediums limiting, what we have managed to do is to liberate them from those limitations. If there is a story that is deep and dense and needs to be told in 10 hours, creators have the liberty to do that with us. If the story is nuanced, is layered and requires a deep investment, again Prime Video allows you to do that.

Streaming platforms have given content creators a very healthy creative challenge. I see two winners here - the customer and the creator. If you are willing to take the challenge, ultimately you are telling better stories to customers and they are going to appreciate you for it.

Internationally large studios are being taken over by streaming platforms, do you see that phenomenon happening in India anytime soon?

India is a very unique country; I really don't have the expertise to comment on how the industry will move because the studios would have a much deeper understanding of that. However, I do believe that a lot of studios are already ahead in this game in India. They are already looking at this as a great opportunity to tell better stories. I think studios will wrap their hands around the opportunities to put out premium cinematic content and that will actually create a new revenue model for them.

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