New Delhi: Amazon Prime Video has announced 18 original shows for India, making it Amazon Inc.’s first international market with the largest number of original shows outside US, as the American company prepares to change the way Indians consume entertainment content. Amazon Prime Video is run by Seattle-based e-commerce firm Amazon Inc. in India.

Launched last week, Amazon Prime Video is readying programming ranging from sports drama to mythological fiction to comedy, with a big focus on local content.

“India is the only international market where 18 Amazon originals have been announced right from the word go. It’s the largest number of shows announced at one time for one market," said Nitesh Kripalani, director and country head, Amazon Prime Video.

The company plans to acquire the best talent among writers, filmmakers and producers.

“We want to tell our customers new, fresh, relevant and engaging stories that are smartly written and intelligent. We want the content creators to think about that one project they have always wanted to make, without worrying about length, number of episodes, etc.," Kripalani said.

After tying up with film-makers and film studios beginning September, Amazon Prime’s video content portfolio is now led by Bollywood movies, a popular content category in India.

To be sure, in India, at present nine shows are in production while nine are in different stages of development.The first Amazon India original is likely to go live in the April-June quarter next year. All new shows will be in line with Bollywood productions, both in terms of scale and budgets.

Filmmakers such as Vikram Malhotra and Raj Nidimoru, who are collaborating with Amazon, say that the content will be across genres and the company isn’t scrimping on budgets. Nidimoru and his partner Krishna D.K. are the director duo best known for films such as Shor in the City and Go Goa Gone. They are creating a series titled The Family Man for Amazon.

“They contacted us a while back and asked if we had an idea for a mini-series. We developed a fun mini-series idea and were exploring platform options. Amazon gave us a free rein, fewer restrictions as compared to a film in terms of language, story and characters. We gave them a budget, and they accepted it. You cannot make a good series on a TV budget. We want to make it with feature film quality," said Nidimoru, without divulging the investment in the series.

Agreed Malhotra of Abundantia Entertainment, which is creating Breathe for Amazon Prime Video starring R. Madhavan and Amit Sadh.

“They had a blue sky vision; they weren’t governed by set thought processes or preconceived notions," he said. “For Abundantia, it’s a natural progression from the feature films we support and produce where we invariably speak to a young, progressive demographic which is the sweet spot for Amazon."

Abundantia Entertainment’s recent productions include Baby and Airlift—both featuring Akshay Kumar.

To be sure, the ambitious bet on local content is on a global level. The company announced 12 new original shows for Japan in May.

In July, while announcing the company’s second-quarter results, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com said, “It’s been a busy few months for Amazon around the world, and particularly in India—where we launched a new Amazon web services (AWS) Region, introduced Prime with unlimited free shipping, and announced that Prime Video is coming soon, offering Prime members in India exclusive access to Amazon Original Series and Movies — including original content featuring top Indian talent. The team in India is inventing at a torrid pace, and we are very grateful to our Indian customers for their welcoming response."

Globally, both Amazon and its American rival Netflix have invested vast sums to produce and licence original content. Amazon spent an estimated $3 billion last year on movies and shows such as Transparent, while Netflix is on course to spend $6 billion in 2016, building on demand for series such as Making a Murderer, Narcos and Daredevil according to a report by The Financial Times in April this year.

In India, Amazon is likely to launch a mass media advertising campaign in January through its first television commercial in a bid to create awareness about Amazon Video, added Kripalani.

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