India has been named on many an occasions as the only major market where internet usage is still growing at a rapid rate, and internet penetration has increased to two or three users per urban residence thanks to smartphones and laptops. With a view to capitalize on the video content needs of this vast and ever-growing demographic, US-based giants Netflix and Amazon Prime Video find themselves embroiled in a winner-takes-all conquest to win the hearts of Indian viewers.
Amazon Prime Video has taken a huge leap to start, reporting over 9.5 million active subscribers compared to Netflix’s 4.2 million-strong viewer base. The magic isn’t just all in the numbers, however, as most of Amazon Prime’s customers reportedly use the Prime service for quicker deliveries and shopping perks as opposed to using the subscription solely for video-content streaming as is the case with Netflix’s subscribers – who only sign on for video content.
Both companies have reportedly set aside massive sums – around Rs.2,000 crore each – to rope in original content creators and gain the edge in this heated race. Original content creators who have been contacted by both companies report that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are highly aggressive in their acquisition processes and have huge programming budgets for those that sign on to stream their content or web series exclusively with either platform. Both companies are reportedly budgeting ‘ridiculous’ amounts to produce web series, Vice-President at Y-Films Ashish Patil says, “The kind of money we or TVF (The Viral Fever) would be spending on an entire series, they are spending on an episode. Our budgets range from Rs.50-Rs.75 lakh while they spend Rs.8-Rs.10 crore across 10 episodes. That’s the budget of a mid-sized feature film. It’s a ridiculous, voracious appetite for content.”
CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings has this to say after his recent visit to India in March, 2017, “When it comes to bidding with other players sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. When we win it’s often because we can give a global platform to that content.” Alluding to a possible content war that could soon be seen in India, between Amazon Prime Video and Netflix as they try to rope in original content creators and established production houses alike.
Amazon began its acquisition and expansion program with great zest, already having signed deals with production houses like Dharma Productions, T-Series, Shree Venkatesh Films, V Creations, Yash Raj Films and Dream Warrior Pictures to name a few. Apart from getting access to over 50 hit films for its Prime Video platform through these signings, the company has also announced its intention to create 18 original series for the Indian market.
Comparatively, Netflix’s acquisition and expansion has been slower and more calculated. So far having signed deals with Red Chillies Entertainment and Viacom 10 Motion Pictures, the company plans to stream movie productions from these houses during the second quarter of 2017. Whether it will be able to keep pace with Amazon Prime Video’s rate of content-rights acquisition remains to be seen, however.
Director of Amazon Prime Video India Nitesh Kripalani says, “We remain customer-obsessed and not focused on competition.”
Will India see Hulu enter the race? It’s only a matter of time.