Prime Video: Amazon India hopes to change the viewership patterns in the country

Prime Video app is available on the Android and Apple app stores and can be accessed directly online as well. Smart TVs will soon ship with the app.

Amazon has officially announced the availability of the Amazon Prime Video service in India and 241 other countries. The Prime Video service will be available for Indian users without any additional cost. This means that if you are a Prime subscriber, you pay nothing to access Prime Video. Non Prime members can try the service for free or subscribe to Amazon Prime for a mere Rs 499 for the first year.

The Prime Video app is available on the Android and Apple app stores. Web viewers will have to head to to access the service. According to Nitesh Kripalani, Director and Country Head, Amazon Video India, a lot of smart TVs will also come with the Amazon Prime Video app pre-installed on their platforms.

You can access content on three devices simultaneously.

The Amazon Prime subscription service started off in July this year, with the promise of delivering products within a 1 or 2 day window. Also, Prime subscribers get early access to Amazon Deals. From 14 December onwards, Amazon Prime Video will also be part of the bouquet.

Amazon Prime Video has a lot of competition in the video streaming space from the likes of popular services such as Netflix India, Hotstar, and many more. Apart from offering the Prime Video service at a relatively affordable cost as compared to a Netflix India subscription (it is Rs 500 per month for the base plan) or Hotstar (Rs 199 per month), Amazon India has also announced a range of Amazon Originals produced by Indian filmmakers. This is a unique selling proposition as compared to Netflix, which has yet to announce as wide a local bouquet.

Some of the shows announced by Amazon Prime Video by Head of Content for APAC region, James Farrell, for the Indian market boast of big names. The list includes names like, Excel Entertainment with shows helmed by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti with Powerplay, Mirzapur, Made in Heaven. The AIB and OML produced political satire called The Ministry, The Ram Madhvani made show on mythology called Bodhidharma: Master of Shaolin, Phantom Films' Stardust and many more also make the list. Netflix India, which has been operational in India for a year, has so far seen the release of Indian filmmaker Q's quiz-nerd comedy film Bhraman Naman. There have been no announcements of more Indian local content.

According to Kripalani, customer demand is the main driving force behind the content bouquet and Amazon is constantly evaluating options to enhance that experience. That can mean shows in Hindi or English or regional languages or even international languages depending on the demand.

All the Amazon Original content announced for the Indian market will be complete series and not just pilots which are up for vote. Kripalani also touched upon the fact that content can either be shown weekly or at all at once (for binge watchers) whichever works for the audience. Amazon will study that pattern in India and make changes accordingly.

"We want to change the way Indian creators create content for customers. We want to free them from constraints such as the three-hour window for movies and 30-minutes time slot for TV shows. This has also excited a lot of our partners. That additional liberty, something new to entertain customers, is refreshing," said Kripalani.

Amazon India has been studying the content consumption patterns of customers in order to come up with the kind of original content that they have with partners. According to Kripalani, they have been looking at content that has become popular with customers such as TV shows, movies, even pirated content, which gave them an idea as to what would work on here.

The content on Prime Video will be advertisement-free. Add in the aspect of a one-time joining fee of Rs 499 (which will be annually charged), there isn't more the customer has to pay over and above this and let's be fair here, that fee is peanuts when compared to the competition.

On being asked how sustainable this model is, considering the money being spent on Original Shows is significant, Kripalani said that the company had a long term plan about it. "We built our e-commerce platform over time. We want to build the entertainment ecosystem similarly. We want to change the way the customer consumes content. The Prime Video service bundled with the option of getting Prime features such as one-way delivery and early access to deals, is a compelling proposition and we plan to build on that," said Kripalani.

Touching up on the emergence of HDR video and UltraHD 4K Video content which Amazon is offering to the US customers, Kripalani said that it was too early to do that in India as the product ecosystem here is yet to adapt to that on a large scale.

"At the moment it does not make economical sense. But we will keep monitoring customer demand. I think we are a little behind the curve in India, but I'm sure we'll catch up very soon," said Kripalani.

With Amazon Prime Video available on smart TVs, does this mean that the market is ripe enough to launch Amazon Fire tablets and Fire TV products in India? Kripalani said, "We are constantly evaluating all our products and services for India. It is a super-strategic market for us. In one of the shareholders' letters this year, Bezos called out two things — Prime Video and India. We are right at the cusp of it. Anything that supports that growth will be considered. But it has to be localised to the need of Indian users, it has to solve a problem. It has to be delivered in a convenient fashion,” said Kripalani.

Amazon Prime Video offers the option to take videos offline. But that also comes with a limit of around 15-20 videos at a time for a maximum period of 48 hours.

Keeping the Indian consumer in mind and the limited FUP limits, Amazon has launched a data saver feature as well. According to Kripalani, consumers have the option to choose the video quality they want and can also download shows and view them later. There are no resolutions mentioned, only quality demarcations such as Data Saver, Good, Better and Best.

“We are constantly looking at different partnerships which will enable customers to watch more content. We’ve done it in different markets, and we will be evaluating those options in India as well,” said Kripalani without confirming any names of such partners, which would most likely be telecom players or ISPs.

With India come the various censorship rules. One of the reason why a lot of people are put off by the content being shown on TV is the excessive censorship. Entire dialogues being muted, scenes being cut out, these are the norm while watching content on TV. How does Amazon plan to tackle that? Will the Amazon Original TV shows or movies have to go through the CBFC grinder as well?

“We make sure that our content is keeping in mind the Indian sensibilities. We are also culture-sensitive. What I can tell you is that we will follow all the rules and regulations that are necessary for our service and we will also make sure that customers are happy about it,” said Kripalani

Speaking about the Indian Amazon Originals launch date, Kripalani hinted at an early 2017 launch. He also said that the launch plans — weekly basis or all at once — are things that are yet to be decided and the call will be taken based on consumer response.

One thing that is missing on the Prime Video service here is live sports events, something that gives Hotstar a much better bargaining chip over other streaming services. There was even speculation about Amazon bidding for IPL rights in the past. Kripalani said that they were open to having non-fiction shows as well such as cookery shows, documentaries, talk shows and so on. “There is no one specific genre we look at. We keep evaluating customer inputs and if there is demand for sports, we will be open to it,” concluded Kripalani.

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