While Netflix and Amazon dominate the Indian market, homegrown platforms have also tasted success. For instance, ALTBalaji, a subsidiary of Balaji Telefilms, amassed 1.8 million subscriptions by September 2021, up multi-fold from 280,000 three years ago. Other platforms like Zee5 and SonyLiv have not only found takers in India, but also tapped into the diaspora audience and beyond.

“There’s going to be severe competition for eyeballs but then again, YRF is going to leverage its strong background in films and TV series,” says Vidhyashankar. To tap into a wider audience, YRF must “stitch an ecosystem of creators to invest and grow as the demand is high and proven.”

Beyond content, the legacy firm will also need to focus on “technological muscle and backend” to hone recommendation engines, says Balkrishna Hari Singh, founder and CEO of Frenzi, a search and recommendation app for streaming content.

YRF films will stream on Amazon Prime Video

While it takes on other platforms, YRF is also making an ally out of a global behemoth—a classic case of not putting all its eggs in one basket.

On Oct. 28, YRF signed a licensing deal with Amazon Prime Video for its upcoming film titles, including heist comedy Bunty Aur Babli 2, action movie Shamshera, historical drama Prithviraj, and family film Jayeshbhai Jordaar. These movies will stream online just four weeks after their theatrical releases, helping YRF “significantly increase the reach and viewing base…in India and around the world,” Gaurav Gandhi, Prime Video’s country head in India, said in a press release.

Beyond next year’s slate, YRF could change this strategy and monetize its tentpole films on its own platform. But for now, Prime Video’s global audience of more than 200 million subscribers is essential to survival. Especially as theatrical releases fail to deliver.

A future beyond theatres

As more people get vaccinated and a sense of normalcy is restored, cinema halls—first to shut down and last to reopen—are welcoming patrons back. But the landscape is altered. Several single screens were forced to fold, and multiplex chains like PVR and Inox Leisure posted huge losses and took hits to their stock prices as they tried to mitigate damage by negotiating contracts with landlords, shuttering some sites, and reducing headcounts.

Additionally, YRF’s return to the silver screen has been underwhelming. Its latest big-ticket release, Bunty Aur Babli 2, has failed to impress critics and tanked at the box office.

As theaters suffer, Chopra is eyeing other revenue streams, including reviving and reworking his iconic romcom DDLJ for a Broadway debut next year. If YRF can get it right, streaming is an obvious money-maker.

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