Our vision is to serve consistently and creatively: Vijay Subramaniam, Amazon Prime Video

With 10 to 12 original series in the offing, Amazon Prime Video has a big year ahead, says Subramanian, the Director and Head of Content

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Jan 9, 2020 1:11 PM
Vijay Subramaniam

Amazon Prime Video kicked off the new year with its first original series of 2020, The Forgotten Army- Azaadi Ke Liye, which was announced three years back. Based on true events, the five-episode series is created and directed by Kabir Khan. It narrates the journey of the brave young men and women of the Indian National Army (INA) who fought against the British for India’s Independence. Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India, in an interview with exchange4media, said the platform is planning to launch 10-12 original series in 2020. He shared some insights on the year that went by and his vision for the new year.

Edited excerpts: 

How has been the year 2019 for Amazon Prime Video? 

Also Read: It is important to respect the audience's diversity: Vijay Subramaniam, Amazon Prime Video

Right from 2016, since the launch, we have been committed to the long-term opportunities in India. 2019 was the first year where we came closer to being able to offer a full suite of content across the various categories because it takes time to ramp these up.

 In many ways, 2019 was a first for us. We had a really strong mix of originals, in terms of variety and offering. We had two returning seasons of our original shows, Inside Edge and Comicstaan. We also added four new regional language opportunities, including Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati and Punjabi, taking the total number from five to nine. 

And overall, it was also the year that prepared us for a full suite of Hindi content, which is 2020. We started looking at what have we learnt, what are the signals we get from our customers and how we can get better, not only with respect to content.

The series The Forgotten Army- Azaadi Ke Liye was announced three years back. What it also took a long time to bring on your platform. Also, how do you decide which storyline will be in film format or series format?

For us, everything begins with understanding customer preferences and their evolution. They guide our decisions. It's important to see how certain content is likely to be received by the audience, not just today, but 18-24 months from now. We are very customer-focused, and that allows us to go back to them and check if they still care about these kinds of stories. 

It's easy to figure out what makes a film or a series, but it's a craft. When you go long format, is you're asking the customer to not just engage with your story, but you're asking her to own it at some point. And so it really needs to be compelling enough not for you to invest two hours but invest 5-7 hours. It needs to have multiple layers and really strong character arcs that are believable and logically conclusive. Because films with a shorter duration can open up many threads and leave them undissolved.  You can't do that in the world of long-form storytelling. 

Our commitment with the long-form finite fiction, from the very beginning, is to bring cinematic quality-storytelling. So we are not Looking to die and down that ambition. And our ambitions mirror those of the Creator and his vision.

Do you plan to come up with original films on your platform anytime soon?

I don't have a timeline yet but, surely.  Our current priority is to ramp up long-form finite fiction. We find that customers are hungry for the long-form but it's short in supply. It takes longer to bring it to customers, but at the same time, it stays with them much longer. So that's something that we're focused on right now. 

What is your content strategy for regional markets? 

I believe that our customers think we have done a very good job in Telugu and Tamil bringing them the latest and the greatest films because that's what they care about deeply. We also announced that we are now looking to build up originals, which takes time. This year, our focus will be to reinforce Telugu and Tamil and ramp up Malayalam and Kannada.  We learnt that customers, seek familiarity and scale when they come into a new language. Through movies, we got customers' attention and now we need to build upon that, so we will continue to go deeper in these languages. We will be looking to unlock more in Punjabi, that's another language that we committed to. We need to be mindful of the market where there's a very big Hindi overlap, and also of the challenges on the ground where the industry is not developed. A lot of action can be expected in our regional languages.

Early 2021 is when we start bringing these shows on to the service because they take time to put together. 

What is your vision for 2020? And what will be the key drivers for the growth this year?

The vision is to serve customers effectively, consistently and as creatively as we can. We want to transform the way customers consume entertainment and how creators, create content and that continues to be our vision 2020 and beyond. We want to be the preferred choice of creators in the country. 

There are a couple of drivers for us. One is continuing to recognize the diversity of India, and that it's important to be able to serve taste and preferences of customers in each of these languages. Two, understand that people's choices are not similar, because we are a diverse country we should respect that and be able to cater to all the various segments and as meaningful manner. The third is to  keep driving and giving customers great value to everything we do. The Prime membership programme is all about that. We also plan to launch anywhere between 10 -12 originals this year; strong lineup across the films and great stand up opportunities are what we look forward to.


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