New Delhi: Streaming platform Amazon Prime has launched over 40 new titles as part of its ‘Amazon Prime Video presents India’ showcase, along with a movie rental service. The move comes at a time when its biggest competitor Netflix has lost a sizeable number of subscribers — around 200,000, according to its first quarter earnings for 2022.
Amazon Prime launched its showcase at an event hosted by director-producer Karan Johar in Mumbai last Thursday. It attended by the entertainment industry’s biggest names.
“There are three aspects of going deep — there is content, there is how we market it and there is distribution,” said Gaurav Gandhi, country head, Amazon Prime Video India, at the launch press conference Thursday.
The 40 new titles, which include Hindi, Tamil and Telugu offerings, indicate that while streaming platforms are going global in general, in India, they are also focussing on regional productions.
India is one of the fastest growing markets for OTT platforms. While Netflix ventured into the country in 2016, Amazon Prime recently completed five years here.
Netflix has 6.1 million subscribers in India, while Amazon Prime has around 22.3 million subscribers. The disparity is not merely an indicator of supremacy, but also of Amazon Prime offerings, which include streaming, music and shopping.
The Netflix crisis
Having already lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers, Netflix has estimated a loss of another 2 million subscribers by the second quarter. This worrying shift after over a decade of sustained growth has been motivated by various factors, including the pandemic as well as the Russia-Ukraine war.
The OTT platform had withdrawn from Russia as a response to the latter’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions. The move resulted in a loss of 700,000 subscribers in the quarter. Netflix still gained 500,000 subscribers, but the number was far short of the expected growth of 2.5 million subscribers.
Netflix had slashed its rates in India in December last year. It brought down the monthly mobile subscription plan for a single screen to Rs 149 from Rs 199, and is also available free with a few broadband plans.
Big names in upcoming films, series
Amazon Prime, meanwhile, has expanded its horizons with the genres it offers, ranging from horror to biographies, and true crime to investigative docudramas.
Among the upcoming offerings is Farzi, directed by filmmakers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., who had earlier given Amazon Prime its goldmine series The Family Man, starring Manoj Bajpai. Farzi has Shahid Kapoor in the lead with Vijay Sethupathi playing a policeman.
Meanwhile, Jubilee will bring Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee and Aparshakti Khurana together, while horror series Adhura will feature actor Ishwak Singh from the hit web series Rocket Boys, as well as Rasika Dugal. Sonakshi Sinha will play a cop in Dahaad, co-starring Gulshan Devaiah and Vijay Varma, while Telugu actor Naga Chaitanya will make his OTT debut in the Telugu horror series, Dhootha.
This indicates Bollywood’s attempts to make a space for itself on OTT platforms, not simply through actors, but also collaborations, with 17 licenced films coming from the likes of Karan Johar-owned Dharma Productions, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment, Ajay Devgn FFilms (sic), and Yash Raj Films.
Apart from these, there are three originals, two co-productions, and one “special collaboration” in the pipeline.
The Madhuri Dixit Nene-led comedy-drama Maja Maa will directly come to Prime Video while Akshay Kumar’s Ram Setu is among the co-productions. Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika Films is also collaborating with the platform for Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Tiku Weds Sheru.
How many OTTs are too many?
In India, as of now, there are around 40 OTT platforms, offering various plans. A KPMG survey in 2019 predicted that there will be a massive increase in the number of OTT subscribers in India, an estimated 62 million, by 2022. The growth is also significant in India’s tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where cable TV used to enjoy massive popularity.
While the Covid-19 lockdowns kept everyone indoors, OTT platforms grew, with India being one of the biggest consumers. And even though movie theatres have reopened, there is the undeniable economic angle to having the option of watching at home.
India is a land that watches TV shows like both Naagin and Anupama, and wants variety in everything. OTT platforms like Hoichoi (Bengali), OHO Gujarati (Gujarati), Sun NXT (Malayalam) and Aha (Telugu) are some of the big players in the regional market. Hoichoi, which launched in 2017, has 13 million subscribers while Aha Video reached over 1 million paid subscribers within around 20 months of its launch in March 2020.
Hoichoi has released around 80 shows in Bengali while Sun NXT has over 4,000 South Indian movies in its library.
With such fierce competition, Amazon’s aggressive launch of new and diverse content, and promoting new talent, both in the form of actors and show creators, is not a surprise. In fact, some of its biggest hits like Mirzapur, The Family Man and Made in Heaven featured ensemble casts. And it is now pushing the envelope further in the war of OTTs.
While Prime’s yearly subscription is still economical compared to that of Netflix, there is no denying that there are cheaper options, with more regional offerings.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)