What’s streaming? Netflix, Amazon tune into India with ₹2,000-cr war chests each.
US-based video streaming platforms and arch rivals Netflix and Amazon have extended their battle to the Indian market, where they have set aside Rs 2,000 crore each for acquiring content to attract subscribers. Amazon Prime Video has taken an early edge over Netflix, signing up 9.5 million active subscribers since its launch in December. At 4.2 million a little over a year after its launch in India, Netflix has less than half the number.
To be sure, Amazon’s pricing helps. Amazon Prime Video’s unlimited ad-free, on-demand service comes for an annual subscription of Rs 499 against Netflix’s Rs 500 fee for a single month.
According to content producers, both are very aggressive, have ambitious programming budgets and keen to stream original content to their platforms.
“Having met both, I can vouch for the fact that both are sold on the India story,” said Apoorva Mehta, CEO at Dharma Productions, which produced the recent Bollywood hit Badrinath ki Dulhania. “They are both equally aggressive when it comes to content. Both want to address the huge content gap that exists between Narcos (a popular Netlfix original) and Naagin (a soap on Colors TV),” added Mehta.
Both Netflix and Amazon are focused on quality, said Hyunwoo Thomas Kim, president and CEO of Kross Pictures, a film and TV production company based in Seoul, Korea. “Both are going for quality of storytelling to attract new members,” said Kim, who has signed a deal with Amazon to produce a Hindi series called Suspect X to be directed by Sujoy Ghosh. Kross is also in talks with Netflix on a Korean series to be dubbed for Indian audiences.
Both Amazon and Netflix are eyeing original content. “On the originals front, we are focused on finding great Indian stories. Sacred Games is our first announced Indian original series, and partnering with a top studio like Phantom Films speaks of the kind of quality we are looking at,” Netflix said.
Netflix’s local content acquisition has been slow. It has forged partnerships with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd, and their movie productions will be streamed on the platform in the quarter starting April. The Viacom 18 deal will bring Hindi movies like period drama Rangoon, action thriller Force 2 and a coming-of-age film about sexuality, disability and love, Margarita with a Straw, among others to Netflix subscribers.
Amazon has tied up with production houses like Yash Raj Films (YRF), Dharma Production, T-Series, Shree Venkatesh films, Everest entertainment, V Creations and Dream Warrior. Through these, it will have access to a library of around 50 films. It has also announced 18 original shows for India, making it Amazon’s largest market for original shows outside the US.
“We believe original content in partnership with top and passionate filmmakers, talent and writers and the availability of latest and exclusive movies and TV shows from top Indian, US and global studios/production houses will result in a larger base of customers,” said Nitesh Kripalani, director and country head, Amazon Prime Video India.
Both video streaming platforms are also spending big bucks on web series, said Ashish Patil, vice-president (brand partnerships and talent management) at Y-Films, the youth arm of YRF and the creator of popular web series like Bang Baaja Baaraat, Man’s World and Ladies Room. “The kind of money we or TVF would be spending on an entire series, they are spending on an episode. Our budgets range from ?50-75 lakh while they spend ? 8-10 crore across 10 episodes.”
It’s easy to see why India has become the next battle front for Amazon and Netflix: According to venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, the number of Internet users in India grew 40% in 2015 to 277 million.
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