Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Amazon to lead with films and sports for Prime Video launch

Dharma Productions deal gives Amazon India online rights to film studio's library, a week after the e-commerce firm decided to bid for digital rights to the IPL

Amazon India on Monday announced a content partnership with film studio Dharma Productions for its online television service, Prime Video India, which is expected to launch next year. The announcement comes a week after the company decided to bid for the digital rights of the Indian Premier League, and is a clear signal of its intent to ensure Prime succeeds in India.

As Amazon builds its Prime portfolio in India, focusing on the two most popular content categories in the country (Bollywood and sports), it will compete with popular streaming platform Netflix and Star India’s digital platform Hotstar.

The Dharma deal gives Amazon India online rights to Dharma’s library as well the studio’s forthcoming movie releases. The company’s existing Prime members will have access to this content once Prime Video goes live.

In late July, Amazon India launched its global Prime membership programme, offering one-day and two-day delivery on thousands of products for a fixed price of Rs499 a year initially.

“We are excited to have Dharma Productions’ library and future slate of titles for the upcoming launch of Prime Video," said Nitesh Kripalani, director and country head, Amazon Video India.

Apoorva Mehta, chief executive for Dharma Productions, said Amazon was very keen to acquire content that works in India. “ Entertainment is one of the key areas it has identified to drive online viewership. Amazon will ensure our content is well presented in India and overseas," he added.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, India had 136.53 million broadband users at the end of December 2015, up from 85.74 million a year earlier.

Entertainment apart, Amazon India also seems to be eyeing sport in line with its global strategy. “Amazon Inc. is pursuing video rights to a wide range of sports, including the French Open tennis championship and professional rugby," a 10 September Bloomberg report said.

With live sports, Amazon could offer something viewers can’t get from rivals such as Netflix, and erode the hold of traditional media companies on some of the most valuable TV fare.

Seattle-based Amazon already spends billions of dollars a year to offer TV shows and movies on demand and has been exploring the creation of a live online pay-TV service since late 2015.

Netflix, which has been present in India for over eight months, is betting big on original content. The company has announced its first original series in the country based on author Vikram Chandra’s well-received novel Sacred Games.

Netflix declined to comment on Amazon’s entry into video. A top Hotstar executive did not respond to several calls seeking comment.