Amazon’s strategy to lure Prime subscribers in India: Bollywood on demand

Bagging the big names.
Bagging the big names.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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Ahead of entering the on-demand video market in India, Amazon is loading up its war chest with big names from Bollywood.

Amazon India has signed a licensing deal with Dharma Productions, headed by revered director-producer Karan Johar, the company said in a press release Sept. 26 . The agreement will make Amazon’s Prime Video India “the subscription streaming home for well-known films and upcoming new releases from Dharma Productions,” the company said. Dharma Production has released over 30 titles since its founding in 1976.

“We have kept a close eye on the explosion of digital media, and the increased consumption trends of Bollywood content on Video-On-Demand and OTT Platforms,” said Dharma’s chief executive officer Apoorva Mehta, according to the release. “We are confident that partnering with a credible brand like Amazon will go a long way in ensuring that our content will not only be seamlessly streamed, but will also see a huge demand from users of Prime Video.”

With the Dharma deal, Amazon has bagged the exclusive rights for the digital premiere of films like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil releasing next month, as well as other upcoming films like Ok Jaanu and Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Amazon’s Prime video library also will host Dharma’s past blockbuster hits like Kapoor & Sons, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Kal Ho Naa Ho, and more.

Amazon in India recently partnered with Vishesh Films to store its entire catalog of movies, comprising almost 50 titles. The price tag on these partnerships was not revealed, but Amazon was to put $300 million into funding original content for India, according to a July report by Factor Daily. According to the report, Prime was pursuing deals with Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms and Yash Raj Productions.

In order to compete with Netflix and domestic service HotStar, local content is crucial. Indian consumers spend 93% of their time on videos in Hindi and other regional languages, according to a January 2016 Ernst & Young report. Netflix, which entered in the Indian market at the start of the yearwas less aggressive: Comedian Vir Das inked a deal to create original content on the platform but Netflix has no other big names.

While India may be a lucrative market for online video, poor broadband infrastructure can be a setback for streaming services. As low-cost smart phones enter the market and data prices become more affordable, the country’s digital audience will likely keep growing.

In June, Amazon said it intended to invest an additional $3 billion in India to expand its operations. That may be more than the combined funds raised by home-grown companies Flipkart and Snapdeal.