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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

‘Indians have a strong appetite for local shows’

Aparna Purohit, Head, India Originals, Amazon Prime Video, on why she’s bullish about the future of OTT entertainment in India

Written by Ektaa Malik | November 15, 2020 6:20:10 am
Aparna PurohitAparna Purohit, Head, India Originals, Amazon Prime Video

How would you describe your progress since your launch in India in 2016?

Prime Video’s viewing hours in India has grown by six times over the past two years. The country also boasts one of the highest engagement rates in the world. We have tirelessly worked toward creating the best entertainment experience for our audiences. Instead of churning out volumes, we curated stories that are best suited to the preferences of the Indian audience, locally relevant and have a high-quality cinematic value. With this in mind, we focused on long-form, immersive storytelling through our originals, early window (and now direct-to-streaming) movies across nine local languages, giving a stage to the very best of stand-up comedy from India; bringing in the best of global entertainment, and relentlessly amplifying our reach and access. It is heartening to note that one in five viewers of Indian Amazon Original Series is from outside the country. We were also the first video streaming service in India to identify the opportunity of getting highly-anticipated titles across languages and swiftly launching these in over 200 countries and territories, in just five months. One key learning – good content transcends geographical barriers. Our goal is to change the way Indian customers consume premium entertainment in India; and to change the way content creators create content for Indian and worldwide customers by focusing on what customers want and delivering it consistently.

Has the pandemic swelled viewership?

In these unprecedented times, we know our customers in India and around the world, are turning to streaming as their primary source of entertainment. Customer habits are rapidly evolving as they are spending more time on video-streaming platforms. In the next three-four years, we expect people to stream as much as they watch linear TV – propelled by growth in both SVOD (subscription video on demand) and AVOD (advertising-based video on demand). There are multiple tailwinds driving growth in this ecosystem. Changing consumer habits – the convenience of anytime, anywhere personalised entertainment – is, of course, one of the big reasons. India also has a young demography that is hungry for content, discerning and evolving quickly. Ubiquitous smartphones and the cheapest data in the world have made streaming accessible to a very large part of the population. Additionally, India is a country of a large number of single-TV homes, and the phone or the handheld device is now becoming the preferred mode of content consumption for a large number of people. India is also under-screened as a country, with one of the lowest density of screens-to-population ratio. Streaming helps rapidly increase distribution by taking great quality content – both Indian and international – to a much larger base of consumers.

What are the factors that influence your programming?

We keep customers at the heart of everything we do and work backwards from what we believe will work for our Indian customers. Indian audiences have a strong appetite for local, authentic shows from the best local voices. Our focus has been on curating local, authentic stories that resonate with Indians. We are also able to take stories from India to a global stage. We continue to recognize the diversity of India, and it is important to serve the taste and preferences of customers in different languages. We offer programming in English, Hindi, Marathi Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi and Malayalam. We localise in the true sense: in addition to content, we offer user interface support in three Indian languages. Languages. Furthermore, we dub and subtitle content across languages to expand reach and access. For example, we launched the Korean film Parasite in India with Hindi dubbing.

Is there a formula to selecting projects?
We know that customers want to see authentic stories, and to invest in characters that can reflect their own experiences and diversity. We want to work with passionate filmmakers who are making something new, unique; who are edgy and unafraid, willing to take risks. We are excited and committed to amplifying the voices of storytellers and to bring their visions to life for our viewers worldwide and invest in titles that have the potential to become blockbuster hits. When selecting a story, the questions we ask are: why this story and why now? Much of that answer comes from the creators themselves and their belief in their project.

What does the future look like for the OTT space?
What I can tell you is that we’ll be continuing to focus on the customers and work backwards from their needs. We do believe that video-streaming is here to stay and we are very bullish about the future of high-quality SVOD content.

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