New Delhi: Streaming service Netflix has acquired the rights to stream S.S. Rajamouli’s war epic Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion as it works towards strengthening its presence in India.

The deal is worth $4 million (around Rs25.5 crore), according to a person familiar with the development who asked not to be identified.

“On the content front we are doubling down on Indian investment to curate a compelling content library encompassing original and licensed titles. We are touching a pool of consumers with a great passion for diverse entertainment, offering global originals like Narcos, Stranger Things, The Crown and mainstream, star-driven Indian films that have wide appeal (e.g. our Shah Rukh Khan titles or recent acquisitions of top ones like Dangal and Baahubali)," said Jessica Lee, vice-president (communications), Netflix, in an emailed statement.

The Baahubali deal could be a game-changer in terms of viewership for Netflix, which entered India 18 months ago and was ranked No. 9 among video-streaming apps in terms of monthly active usage in the first half of this year, on the basis of data collected across Android phones by app analytics firm App Annie Inc.

“Netflix is very bullish about the India market and is here for the long term. It is looking to acquire both licensed content and make originals but won’t lap up everything," said Shobu Yarlagadda, co-founder and CEO of Arka Mediaworks, the company that produced the Baahubali films.

“We are very happy and excited to partner with Netflix. Theatrically, its not possible to reach all markets, but with this deal Baahubali will reach 192 countries seamlessly," added Yarlagadda.

Last week, Netflix announced two more original series it will produce in India: Selection Day, a story of cricket and corruption based on a book by Booker prize-winner Aravind Adiga, and Again, a detective show written by Marisha Mukerjee. “On the originals front, just like what we have done in Europe and Latin America, where we have become a leading producer and distributor of high-quality content, we want to do the same for India and we are excited about our upcoming Indian originals, Sacred Games, Selection Day and Again," said Lee.

Netflix will be opening its first office in India later this year in Mumbai.

India’s growing stand-up comedy scene has become another battleground for Netflix and its arch rival Amazon Prime Video.

Streaming video apps have taken off in India as mobile data networks take root. Reliance Jio’s launch last year was a catalyst, with the volume of wireless broadband data consumed by Indians rising sharply, from less than 200 million gigabytes (GB) a month in June 2016 to around 1.3 billion GB a month in March 2017, according to the Internet Trends 2017 report by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.

Much of that data is video, analysts say.

“We at VOOT, as well as other large players in this category have seen huge growth in usage over the last few months—backed by drop in data prices, better connectivity and changing consumer habits. We are still at early stages of this as an industry and all the initiatives on content are about building and growing the market," said Gaurav Gandhi, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, which operates streaming platform VOOT.

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