Amazon Prime Video is growing faster in India than any other country: James Farrell, Amazon Prime Video

James Farrell, Content Head of Asia-Pacific in a free-wheeling chat with exchange4media talks about Amazon Prime Video's run in India, consumption patterns and the varying content strategy from country to country

e4m by Madhuwanti Saha
Published: Mar 13, 2018 9:00 AM  | 6 min read

Ever since its launch in India in December 2016, Amazon Prime Video India has been aggressive whether it’s been about licensing content or making original content. It has forged partnerships to create 18 original series, out of which few are out already (‘Inside Edge’ and ‘Breathe’). The efforts are paying off as the video streaming service which reported to have tens of millions subscribers is growing fastest in India than other countries. 
Meanwhile its global competitor Netflix is taking it slow and has come out with an original film called ‘Love Per Square Foot’ and announced four original series including ‘Sacred Games,’ ‘Selection Day’, and ‘Bard of Blood.’ However,  the US-streaming giant is anything but slow in the $280 billion video streaming market when it comes to local content. It has recently come out with music reality show ‘Remix.’ Comedy show Comicstan and two more shows where the titles are in the final stages. At a later stage, more fiction shows will be launched, including the Zoya Akhtar show – ‘Made in Heaven’, Kabir Khan’s ‘Forgotten Army,’ ‘Mirzapur’, and ‘4 More Shots’, which has just gone into production. It’s also looking to expand its film catalog to southern Indian languages like Tamil and Telugu. James Farrell, Asia-Pacific Content Head, Amazon Prime Video in a free-wheeling chat with talks about its run in India, consumption patterns and the varying content strategy from country to country.

What’s the growth rate of Amazon Prime Video users in India compared to other countries?
The number of Prime and Prime Video users in India is growing faster than any other country. The number of hours the average customer is consuming is 2.5 times higher than what it was when we launched.
The reason Prime is growing faster here than any other country because some customers really value what they get from the shipping side. In Rs 999 you get fast shipment that’s worth it. They look at Prime Video as a bonus.
And, there is another set who will sign up for Indian local content like ‘Breathe.’

So far what’s the consumption pattern in India been like?
The data consumption of the country has gone way up. The number of hours the average consumer is streaming from the start till now is amazing. People are watching stand-ups when they return from work; during week they are binging on something; on weekend they are watching new movies when they hit the service. I don’t think consumer comes to the service to watch just one thing.

What kind of content has seen traction over here?
Originals like ‘Breathe’ and ‘Inside Edge’ have done far away better than anything else. In fact 35 per cent of the views so far on ‘Breathe’ has been from outside India. When we put big Bollywood and regional movies, they do phenomenally well. From past week’s data movies like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Spiderman Homecoming’ fared well.

On which device have you have seen maximum consumption?
India is a mobile-first market. It’s the number one device in consumption. But people who stream the most are on Fire TV stick. They are by far the best customers as they watch at least twice the time spent on mobile every month.

How do you balance out licensing and original content?
If we acquire documentaries from BBC Earth, National Geographic through licensing round l I don’t feel compelled to make it. We did exclusive deals with all the production companies like Excel Entertainment, T- Series and Yash Raj Films. We haven’t done an original movie yet because we have already got a pretty good selection. Though on originals when we looked at local TV for licensing there wasn’t a lot. That’s when we decided to make these 20 shows.

How has your US original content fared in India?
‘American Gods’ did really well. The shows are doing fine but nearly not as well as local content. In India Bollywood content does better while in the US it’s American content.

What is the key, qualitative data you use on individual shows, data that persuades you that a show has a long-term future when it might initially be loss-making? Is it always data-led or instinct also has a role to play?
We want to percolate a little bit more and find audience. I will give you an example from outside India. We made the show ‘Bachelors’ in Japan whose format has been around the world. But nobody has ever attempted a reality show like that in Japan. As a result the first month didn’t find a lot of viewers. They were confused about the show. But by the middle they started getting addicted to it. The views on each episode started increasing. By the end it was the most-talked-about -show in social media. We are actually planning to put it up in India to see if people enjoy watching it. If they say ‘try Bachelor India’ we will. You will see a lot of experimenting. 
Are you attempting something similar in India?
We are already doing a show with Raghu and Raajiv of ‘Roadies’ fame called ‘Skulls and Roses’. The pitch was so crazy that everyone in the room was laughing calling it ridiculous. We have to try something that crazy and fun. It will come out end of the summer.

Anything in India’s consumption pattern that has taken you by surprise?

India has surprised me with cross-pollination. I didn’t expect people who are primarily into US content to watch a big South Indian movie with subtitles over here. So they are not restricted to their native content. If they have heard about it they will check it out over here. That did not actually surprise me but it was nice to see. People from other countries generally stick to their own content and won’t show interest towards foreign movies. Here people are experimental.
How do content challenges vary from country to country?
Making original drama series was a big challenge here in India. This applies to Japan as well. While in the US everybody is pitching you a drama idea. Over there big movies are hard to come by since they have this Hollywood system. Hence every country is very different.

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