New Delhi: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is setting up its own production house to create original web series and short films for subscribers of its telecom unit Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, as it seeks to maintain an edge over competing offerings.
This, the company expects, will help attract more users to its 215-million wireless user base, and also when it formally introduces its wired broadband service towards the end of this year.
Mobile data consumption has soared as tariffs plunged, boosting the viewership of video-streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. India-specific shows on these platforms, including Sacred Games and Comicstaan, have become popular.
“Content market is still not properly tapped… Reliance has hired a bunch of scriptwriters and content creators and is in the process of setting up a huge production house," a person aware of the development said requesting anonymity.
RIL has made a string of acquisitions recently to boost its content offerings. In March, the company announced an integration with music app Saavn for its digital music service JioMusic. In February, RIL announced that it would buy a 5% stake in film maker Eros International Plc.
Jyoti Deshpande, a former group chief executive officer and managing director at Eros, who has joined as head of the media and entertainment business at RIL, is currently driving the company’s initiatives to build businesses around the content ecosystem.
“Recently, 20-25 creative people have come on board… the company has realised that viewers here are taking to original Indian content on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon in a big way… the company too expects to offer some web series to consumers within 4-6 months," the person cited above said.
Jio also has a tie-up with media arts institute Whistling Woods International to set up a lab dedicated to virtual reality and augmented reality, with an aim to create a generation of cinematic VR filmmakers.
Content is a crucial piece in the ‘commerce-content-carriage’ play for RIL, which is now also eyeing the home broadband market to increase market share. Content will come bundled with its home broadband offering.
Rival Bharti Airtel Ltd, which has a wireless subscriber base of 344.55 million and around 2.2 million wired broadband users, on the other hand, believes that the business model around content has not been proven.
“The challenge in content is that if you want to actually produce your own content, it needs a different DNA. The question is do we have the DNA. Maybe the answer to that is no. Currently, we are exploring partnerships to do it (offer content). At some stage, if you have to do it yourself, you have to think about it differently and create a different entity that can actually do it. That to me is still speculative and is out there. At this point, we are focussed on building the platform," Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said in an interview in July.
Both telcos have, however, stepped up investments behind home broadband and expect content to increase consumer stickiness for them. Airtel has a few broadband plans bundled with Amazon Prime subscription.
“Reliance’s strategy to create a platform for exclusive content could work well as new media has seen a lot of traction in the entertainment space. A lot of content is coming up on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, which has also given a path to talent which could otherwise not emerge through traditional production houses," an analyst said, requesting anonymity.
A query emailed to Jio remained unanswered till press time.