Amazon Prime Video India Country Manager: Streaming is Driving a TV Revolution

When China and India had a military skirmish in the Himalayas in June 2020, it had an unexpected consequence for the entertainment industry. After the conflict, in which 20 Indian soldiers died, the Indian government banned 59 apps made in China, including TikTok. That left space for short user-generated videos – and Amazon stepped in.

Gaurav Gandhi, 45, country manager of Amazon Prime Video India (APVI), said it is wise for the company to invest in this area: has very big room for growth. . . It’s the start, but it’s very, very exciting. (The company doesn’t reveal subscription numbers for each country.)

In May this year, Amazon launched miniTV, an advertiser-funded free streaming service that allows users to upload their own material, harnessing the daring and creativity of digital natives of India, half of its 1.35 billion people under the age of 25. miniTV also offers eye-catching drama and lifestyle series and stand-up routines, some as short as TikTok videos, and aims to attract users who will then subscribe to the paid service.

Inexpensive mobile data plans mean streaming services are widely available in India © AFP via Getty Images

The potential market is huge. The global streaming market is estimated at $ 71 billion this year and there are now more than 740 million mobile internet users in India, according to Statista, a figure expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2038. The average Indian smartphone user spends 4.6 hours per day on their device, making the country a perfect testing ground for Amazon Prime’s most pioneering ideas. In January, its Indian division launched a mobile-only video plan, a world first for Amazon. Partnering with telecoms company Bharti Airtel, the company offers monthly plans that, after a 30-day free trial, start at Rs 89 (£ 0.89) per month.

“Mobile broadband is where most of the internet connectivity is located,” Gandhi explains to Zoom from the APVI offices in the futuristic Bandra Kurla complex in Mumbai. “India has the most affordable data in the world. It makes sense to offer a mobile-only plan.

Netflix and Disney + Hotstar offer similar mobile options. These innovations democratize consumption: “People think that streaming in India is only available in big cities and for more affluent customers,” he says. “But the reality with Prime Video is that we have an audience in 99% of [postcodes] and in over 4,500 towns and cities, which means it goes a long way. And it continues to grow rapidly.

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Indians largely live in shared spaces with little privacy, meaning that “95 percent of households in India that have a television only have one television.” Traditionally, shows have targeted the widest possible audience – from grandparents to teens and toddlers – making Indian entertainment a mishmash of genres. Gandhi compares the effect of cell phones to the cinema revolution that occurred with the arrival of multiplex cinemas in the 1990s.

“The single screen theaters had a thousand seats and these films had to be all in one. Action, comedy, drama, all in one. When we had a 150-seat multiplex, we could create a segmented cinema. And streaming does exactly that on TV.

APVI’s original content – 30 shows screened, more than 70 in development – demonstrates this range: gritty police procedure Patal Lok (Underworld); high-end relationship saga Made in paradise; Panchayat (Village Council), a sweet rural comedy. An original combination of international espionage and daily domestic drama, The family man is Amazon’s most viewed Indian original at home and abroad. And there are stand-up series Comicstaan and reality TV show Listen to me love me. “We should have something for grandmother and for grandson,” says Gandhi, “and experiences to look at together.”

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It also shows films in Hindi and local languages. Shershaah (King of Lions), the biopic of a hero from Kargil’s 1999 war with Pakistan, was the “standout shot”. . . it went in depth in all areas ”. Jai Bhim (Victory to Bhim), a legal drama in Tamil, is an example of how “the language barrier is completely broken” by video streaming. APVI produces content in nine local languages, with dubbing and subtitles in all, as well as user interfaces in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

“People are more and more comfortable watching content that is not in their native language,” says Gandhi. “For many of our [local-language] films, more than 50 percent of the audience is outside their country of origin. . . The whole country watches Malayalam cinema, Telugu cinema and Kannada cinema.

Amazon’s internationalism also has its impact. “Indian films were generally only shown in 15 or 20 countries. Now in the first few weeks you see these films in 180 countries. . . Twenty percent of the audience that views our original content is outside of India. “

Foreign content is also avidly watched by Indians, which offers new competition for Indian content creators: a viewer can move on when their interest wanes. “You have to focus on the highest quality,” Gandhi says. “It’s not just about the stars, it’s about great stories. The scenario is the hero.

“The bar has continued to rise. In a few years, Indian shows will catch the imagination of people around the world even more than we do now.

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