As Amazon Prime Video closes in on six years of operations in India, it is one of the market leaders in the streaming segment. A major part of the success is due to it getting a handle on the multiple local languages in the vast market.
“One of the things we look at when we expand into new territories and languages is to see early signs and then double down on those early signs,” Gaurav Gandhi, VP, Amazon Prime Video India told Variety. The service programs in 10 languages in India, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and English.
“When we started programming in 10 languages we saw early signs before most others how content travels across languages,” says Gandhi, who spoke on the sidelines of the APOS conference in Singapore. “Today, 50% of our audience base is watching content in four plus languages, which was not the case three or four years back. And a big reason for that is the fact that as you program multiple languages across the board, we realize that you truly transcend linguistic boundaries and barriers and expand the linguistic palette.”
Gandhi points to the fact that in pre-streaming India, audiences used to consume pay-TV in their native language bundles and films that played theatrically in language-specific locations. All that has changed now, even more so in the two years of the pandemic when content from anywhere in India flourished across the country. Gandhi says that for content in the four South Indian languages – Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam – 50% of the viewers were from outside those languages’ home states.
India is a territory where streamers providing cheap, language-targeted original programming are expanding in a big way, but Gandhi sees them as market expanders rather than competition.” I feel very encouraged about what we are doing but also it’s so good that everybody is expanding this market and segment for everyone,” says Gandhi. “We are happy that so much content is being created in the industry, it benefits the full creative ecosystem. And it benefits the creative economy in a very big way.”
Amazon’s current original programming is in the Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages with other language commissions due imminently.
The other big driver for growth in the Indian streaming space is sports, specifically cricket. Disney+ Hotstar is in a leadership position thanks to winning rights for the last cycle lucrative Indian Premier League cricket tournament. However, streaming rights for the next cycle have been won by Viacom18. Amazon had their hat in the ring for both cycles. Gandhi refuses to speculate on whether the streamer will bid for IPL rights when they become available again, choosing to focus on the India-New Zealand series they have rights for.
Oct. 1 will see the rollout of 5G beginning across India, a move that telecoms market leader Reliance Jio sees as a game changer. “Any investment which enables consumption and purchase and ease of viewing is a boost to the category,” says Gandhi, adding that more immersive content will come into play.
Later, speaking at the APOS conference, Gandhi said that 20% of Amazon’s Indian original content is consumed abroad, beyond the Indian diaspora. “Indian content is on the verge of breaking through [internationally] in a very big way,” Gandhi said.