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‘Prime Video invests heavily in original content in India’


What’s your overall view on the recent developments in the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike and how has it impacted the industry and Prime Video?

We’re very happy that AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) has reached an agreement with WGA. We’re certainly looking forward to the Screen Actors (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists) reaching an agreement hopefully very soon as well. We’re looking forward to everybody getting an equitable resolution and getting back to work. The strike wasn’t great for anyone. Having said that, we have an incredibly diversified business model, which makes us unique when compared to other streaming players in the space. We offer SVoD (subscription video on demand) service in 240+ countries and territories now. We also have an ever-increasing selection through TVoD (transactional video on demand), and Prime Video Channels is live in 17 countries. Besides that, we also have sports, linear channels, fast channels, and AVoD (advertising video on demand) in some markets. Our extensive content library ensures we can continue delivering a very wide selection to our customers.

India is a unique market with its low average revenue per user (Arpu). How important is India for Prime Video, given the competitive streaming landscape and diverse linguistic diversity?

Not only is India an incredibly important locale for us, but also one of the largest geographies in the world now for Prime Video. I think, for anyone who’s operating in this space, if you’re building a global media business, India really needs to be one of the core countries that you’re paying attention to and investing in. It’s an incredibly diverse population, and we’ve seen not only fantastic subscriber growth coming out of India, but it has truly turned into a content engine as well as a source of tech innovation.

We introduced Prime Video Mobile Edition—a mobile-only subscription in India first. We are also focusing on localization efforts to cater to a linguistically diverse country. In fact, today, over 60% of the customers on Prime Video stream content in four or more languages, expanding the overall linguistic palette of Indian consumers. The localization experience is super important and our India team has been the biggest advocate for investing in localization features that we can deliver to our customers worldwide. As we develop more and more content outside the US, we’re very focused on enabling that content to travel across lots of different countries and really find audiences in other places. In fact, I would like to point out that 25% audience of Indian titles comes from outside India.

India is also a market, apart from Japan, where we are disproportionately investing in local originals because we know that our local customers really love seeing, local talents and local storytelling, and we want the service to feel like it’s a homegrown service.

What are some of the innovations started in India that you’ve taken to other markets? Also, are there plans to introduce AVoD service for Prime content?

Some examples include Prime Video Mobile Edition, which we first introduced in India and have now expanded elsewhere, as well as our work expanding the linguistic palette within India. In India, we are also co-producing movies for theatrical audiences, in addition to making Original movies and licensing content in 10 languages. On AVoD, I don’t have anything further to share today, but we are continuously experimenting with different models in India. We already have several ad-supported opportunities in India, including MiniTV, Prime Video Mobile Edition and Prime Lite, all of which involve partnerships with advertisers We’ll continue exploring options to enhance the customer experience and monetize our investments.

How do you measure the success and impact of content offerings, especially when some of your biggest shows — Lord of the Rings and Citadel — got negative press on their high cost?

We believe our global originals are very successful, and we tend to focus on the positive reception they receive worldwide. Shows like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and Citadel have performed exceptionally well. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was watched by over 25 million people on the first day, and overall 100 million people worldwide saw the show. It was the most acquisitive title we have ever launched. We are excited about the forthcoming season as well. We are deeply invested in and are very happy with the performance of our global originals. Citadel was our second-highest-performing title after The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.


The show did very well with Priyanka (Chopra Jonas, lead actor in the show) really driving a lot of viewership in India, which we were super pleased with. We have Citadel India coming too, as well as a version coming out of Italy that we’re excited about too. So, we are going to keep going with the Citadel franchise. We think it’s a really innovative global format.

We are really excited about being able to bring the Indian series and the Italian series to all of our customers worldwide. It is going to be a global tent pole for us all over the world. We’re continuing to invest in big format shows like Citadel, The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and Reacher. We’re working with incredible talent. We’ve got great IPs. Global originals are always going to be a cornerstone of our SVoD offering. We do find that for the most part, big IPs and universal stories work everywhere.

But what about return on investments? Every OTT player is talking about investment in content, which is more than the combined budget of general entertainment channels. What about profitability and financial viability?

We like the economics of the investment that we’ve made, and we feel comfortable with it. We’re really focused on trying to build and grow the service in India and across other parts of Asia. We take a long view on these things. We think that monetization comes in the form of different opportunities that we’ve talked about — Prime subscription revenue, marketplace revenue through Channels and TVOD, and we’re monetizing through ads. We think the combination of our unique business models and revenue streams is going to be more than enough to have a really healthy business.

With content licensing becoming increasingly challenging due to competition and the emergence of many streaming services, how do you negotiate agreements with content creators and studios?

Over the last few years, we have certainly seen that the market for content has become more and more competitive. I think, where we have been successful is really in our flexibility. We look for opportunities to enter licensing agreements, co-productions, and rights agreements that benefit both our partners and us. We’re open-minded and prioritize delivering a diverse selection to our customers. Our aim is to make content accessible while respecting the rights and interests of our partners.

How do you handle content moderation, compliance, and regulatory issues in different markets, especially in the face of evolving content regulations?

We’re diligent about complying with regulations in every country where we operate. We work closely with local regulators and ensure our content is compliant while serving our diverse customer base.

How does piracy impact the streaming industry, and what measures are you taking to address it?

Piracy is a challenge and the entire industry is working aggressively to combat it. This includes various players taking steps like addressing account sharing, removing free trials, and taking action against unauthorized distribution. While it’s a complex issue, we at Prime Video are committed to protecting our content and delivering a secure viewing experience to our customers.

Regarding data-driven decision-making for content recommendations and personalization, how does Prime Video leverage data for user experiences?

Personalization is a top priority for us. We leverage data to provide the most relevant content recommendations to each user. Our product and technology teams work to deliver a personalised and convenient experience. It’s an ongoing journey, but our focus is on making content discovery easy for our diverse customer base.

How is the Prime Video Channels business performing in India?

Prime Video Channels in India is in its early stages, and we’re still growing. Our primary focus is on providing maximum selection and convenience to our customers. We aim to deliver a diverse range of content, both from our own productions and through partnerships. While we produce a lot of original and exclusive content, as well as acquire content and sports rights, we’re also very happy for that selection to come from our partners as well. And so over time, we’re going to continue to invest in more and more features to make it really attractive for partners to want to be able to distribute their services through the Prime Video app. And we’re just at the beginning of that in India – we started with 8 channels and now have more than 20 in a year and a half. With 28,000 hours of content and wide viewership across the country, we are excited about the early successes we are seeing.

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Updated: 02 Oct 2023, 12:20 AM IST

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.