Amazon Launches Channels Service in India

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Amazon Prime Video Channels has landed in India, where the streaming platform’s a la carte service is now available with eight of the country’s popular networks, and more to come.

Already available in 11 territories, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, U.K. and Germany, Prime Video Channels content is available through the Amazon Prime Video app, on any compatible device, using the same user interface and charged in the same monthly bill.

In India, Channels is launching with Discovery Plus, Lionsgate Play, Docubay, Eros Now, MUBI, Hoichoi, Manorama Max, and Shorts TV – each accessible with respective add-on subscriptions, and adding an additional 10,000 titles to Prime’s existing library.

The plans are all annual for now, but Amazon is talking to their partners to introduce monthly plans, Gaurav Gandhi, country manager, Amazon Prime Video, India, told Variety.

Discovery Plus, Shorts TV and Eros Now will cost INR299 ($4.07) annually, Docubay INR499 ($6.79), Hoichoi INR599 ($8.15), Lionsgate Play and Manorama Max INR699 ($9.51) and MUBI INR1,999 ($27.21).

Gandhi declined to reveal the revenue split between the channels and Amazon. “Ultimately, we are getting subscribers for the partner,” says Gandhi. “So they are able to work with us in a very trusting and transparent way.”

The content across these eight channels are diverse. For example, MUBI specializes in arthouse films, Manorama Max in Malayalam language programming and Eros Now in mainstream Bollywood.

“We have always programmed for India not as one homogeneous market, but as very heterogeneous language segments,” Gandhi said. “We program in 10 languages, and I think we’ve grown substantially now to be viewed by 99% of the country’s pin codes, in terms of our viewer base, so we go super deep in that sense.”

“We can’t serve all the content they need, they also watch other services,” Gandhi added. “So the idea was to create a marketplace, like we’ve done in other parts of the world.”

Going forward, the plan is to grow Prime channels with partners who provide content across languages and genres, creating a one-stop-shop and “super serve” the subscribers, according to Gandhi.

Meanwhile, Amazon was one of the pioneers in premiering films originally made for theatrical release, direct-to-streaming on the service, beginning with “Gulabo Sitabo,” starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana.

Now, as cinemas gradually reopen in India, plans to acquire those films remain unchanged, albeit with a small theatrical window built in, should the producer so desire. Gandhi cites espionage thriller “Bellbottom,” starring Akshay Kumar, which bowed in cinemas Aug. 19 and on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 16.

“Going forward, I think we’ll see a combination of things happening – we’ll see certain movies go into theaters and coming to us… and we will have examples of movies going straight to streaming as well,” says Gandhi. “We’re going to work with partners to see how they want to release their film. We are not fixated saying every movie has to come straight to us streaming, we are totally comfortable working with partners, and the movies having a theatrical window and then coming to us.”

However, Gandhi says that with customer tastes changing during the pandemic, audiences may choose not to go to cinemas in the way they used to.

Elsewhere, Vijay Subramaniam, who was director and head, content, at Amazon Prime Video India from 2017, has resigned and will leave the streamer at the end of September. Describing his contribution as “fantastic,” Gandhi said that Amazon is the process of working out a new leadership team structure.

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