OTT is poised to hit the next level with Amazon Prime Video India announcing over 40 new titles that will launch over the next 24 months. 'Prime Video Presents' is a global showcase event that has been brought to India for the first time, and the star-studded event took place in Mumbai recently, hosted by none other than celebrated filmmaker and talk show anchor Karan Johar. The first look of Amazon Prime Video's much awaited content hit the right note among a gathering of media and industry veterans.
Those present on the occasion were Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios; James Farrell - Head of Local Originals; Kelly Day - VP International, Amazon Prime Video; Gaurav Gandhi - Country Head, Prime Video India; Aparna Purohit - Head of India Originals; and Sushant Sreeram - Director of SVOD Business and
Manish Menghani – Head, Content Licensing.
“We have been actively trying to match the exceeding entertainment needs of customers across the country," said Gaurav Gandhi, talking about Amazon Prime’s journey. “With a diverse slate of content, including live sports, Indian original shows across multiple languages, and incredible global originals, Amazon Prime is garnering interest among global and Indian audiences. And with Prime Video Channels, we have collaborated with our partners to super-serve our customers with even more of what they love.”
Watch the entire session here
Below are some excerpts from the interactive session between Karan Johar and leaders from Prime Video:
Q1. Karan to Jennifer:
From what we have seen in India and what you have done globally so far, what sets Amazon Studios apart?
I think four years ago when we as a team started to build, we put a stake down, that we want to be the home for talent. That was an important and central philosophy for us, and we take it very seriously across the globe. You see all these incredible shows today and none of it happens without incredible talent and artists, who have big imaginations and can execute at the highest level.
So being home for talent for us means having the best teams on the ground. We have the very best in Aparna. We want to be that home for talent within the region, and have talent want to be part of the Amazon Prime Video family and make incredible shows for people to enjoy not only in India, but all over the world. So, I think we stand apart in that way and it reflects in our culture, about who we feel like - as colleagues and human beings. We're all very friendly with each other. It's a giant company that feels very small, in so many ways, which I think makes it very special.
Q2 - Karan to James:
James, Jen spoke about the potential for Indian stories travelling. I can attest to that. Shershaah, which launched last year, was watched in 210 countries and territories. It's unimaginable really the global reach our movie had thanks to a launch on Prime Video. I have always been curious about how great storytelling can transcend borders. Tell us, is Indian content finding audiences outside Indian shores?
The short answer is absolutely. I think easily one in five of our customers are watching Indian content and doing so outside of India. Like Shershah, I watched it in US and so did a lot of people I know. It's so many new people around the world. I think it's because they're entertaining. We're getting all this great content from US. A lot of good stuff, but what's missing, what stories aren't being told? What can we do that customers are going to love and might be surprised in new ways? And that is what you see in these last five years - amazing, innovative stuff, and we're going to see more of what's coming up this year.
“Not only are shows traveling but ideas are starting to travel the world. ”
To put it in a different way, it would be a title like One Night Stand. One Night Stand is a great comedy show from India. Some of our team members in Germany watched that show and they said you know what, that could work in Germany, so they made it in Germany. It's going to come out in a few months. Even India watched a show from Japan called Last One Laughing. They made that here. Now, we've got shows in Brazil on dating, in Italy on cooking and in Australian on real estate. Not only are shows traveling but ideas are starting to travel the world. It's just a super exciting time for how content is starting to move around the world.
Q3 - Karan to Aparna:
It is undeniable that you have tasted great success with Originals – we see an incredible width and breadth of genres. Tell us more about how you commission content?
Thank you Karan. This is a great one. Five incredible years, I am feeling very emotional. I truly believe that India is a land of storytellers. We have stories in every nook and cranny and this is such an incredible time. It's almost like revitalization, like almost a renaissance of Indian entertainment. And amidst this multitude of stories, to find that one story that can connect and resonate with the audience not just here, but across the world, that's a challenge. And I can just allude to what Jen was saying earlier, we just want to create a home for talent, really a community, a safe space where creators feel supported, where they feel that you're willing to invest in them.
For us at Prime Video everything begins with a great story. The question that we ask ourselves constantly is why this story? What is so compelling about this story? What is keeping the creators up at night about this story? Is it truly rooted and entrenched in our soil? And I think that's the starting point, that’s the vision we have for our creators - enable them and empower them. And finally, I'd like to just say that we call ourselves my team, and I will call ourselves the story chasers.
“We are enablers, the storytelling chasers.”
We will go across the length and breadth of a country to find a good story, and really develop them. I also feel that we don't ever dictate. We never let the creator's vision get diluted. So we never insist on cast this or cast that, but really cast for the characters. And when Gaurav was talking earlier about how the given a platform so many new, talented, emerging independent voices, almost 50% of our release, has new talent and 70% of our upcoming slate has been talent. So I just feel we are enablers, the storytelling chasers.
Q4 - Karan to Kelly:
Kelly, you’re just four months into your role overseeing Prime Video International, and from everything Jen and James have said, it seems you are all incredibly bullish about India. All streaming services say India is an important geography. I am curious to know, where is India being placed in the Prime Video universe?
Yeah, well first thanks for having me here. It's been an incredible week. And as you said, I've only been with Amazon now for a few months. And this is the first opportunity I've had to come and spend the week with Gaurav, and the incredible team here in India. And it's just been a fantastic here in Mumbai. So, it's been really great. When I think about the opportunity (in India), it goes without saying that the future of global streaming services is really about global expansion and moving much more ambitiously to serving customers in our international markets all over the world.
Truly, India is really leading the way for us. It is one of our fastest growing markets. It represents some of our most engaged consumers. It's just been doing really, really well. And I think it really starts with this phenomenal team. I can't say enough about them, and really their ability to kind of get into the minds of the local consumer, right? We're really about trying to create an entertainment service that meets the needs of the Indian customer, first and foremost. It's the Indian consumer backwards and what we can do to really super serve that audience.
“What is interesting is that India is turning into an innovation hub – there are initiatives like the Prime Video Mobile Edition, that had its genesis in India, and has now been rolled out across multiple countries.”
You've already seen some of the incredible announcements that they made just in the first 10 or 15 minutes of all the things that we're doing and the investments that we're making and new launches, our rental business, but I think one of the things that's also interesting is that India's is truly an innovation hub for us. A great example of that is our Prime Video Mobile Edition Service. India is the first market where we rolled out a mobile only service for our customers here. It’s done quite well for us and we're really using that as a launch pad and are now rolling out the mobile edition product in a variety of countries all over the world. I really see the opportunity here in India, to continue to innovate, to continue to serve customers, and to continue to learn how we can build on that and expand Prime Video all over the world.
Q5 - Karan to Jennifer:
Shifting track, a bit about a subject that I know you are passionate about. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of Amazon Studio’s core values. How does this focus translate into action in the way you are building the slate?
Well, our hunt for talent is defined by being diverse, and it's supportive of women and voices all over the world and so you see, with leaders like Aparna, James, Gaurav, Kelly, and our whole team, that we're always mindful of this, it's part of what we do. It's not checking boxes. It's really about making sure, as Kelly said, we're thinking about our customers globally. And locally, our customers are incredibly diverse.
“Our hunt for talent is defined by being diverse, and it's supportive of women and voices all over the world”
They're incredibly diverse across India, as you pointed out. And so how do we reach the talent that can speak to those audiences, and they don't come in a one size checkbox for you to order. They are artists with voices and stories. My friend (Aparna) over here is a story chaser, but then I also call her a "story nurturer" as those stories move on through a pipeline, but it's about finding those stories and those voices, women, and new voices. I think half of our new content we're announcing comes from female producers and executive producers that you'll be hearing about today. And I think 30% of the directors of those projects are all women, which I know we're incredibly proud of. Women and lovely men allies, you can all cheer and then James over here runs an international team of leaders. And it's a fire force of passionate women who are out there following Aparna’s lead and chasing stories all over the world. It really starts at the top. It's how we live, it's our culture, and it's incredibly meaningful to us and always has been for me personally.
I also love that many of the producers we have are very prolific producers on our slate and our current slate and the new slate. They're also developing female powerhouses underneath them who've gone on to become executive producers of our shows. And I think that’s testament to you and to all the incredible producers out here who have been believers in that as well.
I echo Jen on this. I am so glad to work at a place like Amazon where we truly value the contribution of women and other diverse groups. We believe that diversity, equity and inclusion, is not just needed… IT IS ESSENTIAL. It should be par for the course, really! We are trying to go beyond intention to institutionalize processes and mechanisms to create an industry that mirrors true diversity. In March this year, we launched Maitri: Female First Collective in partnership with MAMI. Maitri is an initiative that brings women together to nurture conversations and collaborations.
Q6 - Karan to Kelly:
It is true and I think the digital universe, by and large, has actually empowered women and believe very strongly in equality and the representation of even the LGBTQ community and it's just been fantastic that content that has resonated deeply, changed mindsets, and created new ways over to so many and I think that we have to thank all the storytellers and so many of you are here with us this afternoon. Thank you, Jen. Thank you, Aparna.
Kelly, in India, like the rest of the world, entertainment is a highly competitive market, with lots of content available across many, many different services. What would you say makes Prime Video stand out?
I think that the thing that really attracted me to come to Prime Video and take this role is that we have such an incredible opportunity to deliver at scale, but at the same time, unique and very local experience for our customers all over the world.
Here in India, it's really a multi-pronged strategy. First, we're programming in over 10 languages. So again, it's got to be a truly locally relevant experience, to make sure that we're really meeting the needs of our customer. Our Indian originals are doing incredibly well. You're going to hear about a whole new slate of them going forward. So, our content is really resonating with our consumers. We've redefined movies. We're doing direct to streaming here in the country in addition to obviously, all the licensed titles that we bring in from around the world. It's really, (like I mentioned earlier about the mobile edition product) about continuing to innovate for a mobile first consumer and invest in just really making it very easy for people to access Prime Video on whatever device you want.
Finally, live sports. I think that we are uniquely positioned to be able to bring live sports, in addition to all the great local content that we're producing. Cricket is obviously incredibly well loved here in India and we're excited to be able to deliver cricket to our customers here, too. So, we are just at the beginning. As Gaurav said over the next five years, our plan is to double the investment that we just made. We consider India to be one of our most strategic markets and I think you're going to see us continue to invest in a truly differentiated service here.
Q7 - Karan to Gaurav:
Brilliant. Thank you, Kelly, thank you so much for that. Gaurav you just mentioned, when you briefed us in your address earlier, on Prime Video’s entry into original movies. Now you made some big movies by launching over 50 movies, you made a big boost by launching over 50 movies directly on the service over the last three years. You also have co-production with Ram Setu, which releases during Diwali, how are you thinking about programming movies?
India loves movies. They love everything our creators created - but India is under-screened. Only 9000 screens for 2000 movies that we make every year across languages. Now, the opportunity for us is to address, the whitespace was could we actually get more customers to see movies in the early window of its release? To do that we worked on a series of licensed deals with partners like yourselves and others, getting these movies in the early window right after theatrical. But then the opportunity came, when theaters were shut in the pandemic, and the content was ready, but there was no way to get them to theatres, we partnered with you and others to get the movies directly to our service.
We released 58 shows in less than 20 months, across six languages to customers and the reach was phenomenal across India, across the world. We realized the fact that we can play a very important role in getting the films to the customers. We are taking one step forward there with original films now which we’re announcing today. We have some interesting announcements, which we'll come to later and of course, expanding on co-productions - we announced one earlier with Ram Setu and we have more to announce. And finally, with our launch of our movie rental service there is one more way for customers to consume content besides joining Prime so I think overall, with everything we are doing, we are fueling the creative economy, so creators can make more movies.
Karan: Fantastic and I think what’s fantastic about Amazon Prime is not just having the film on your platform but I noticed as a filmmaker who had two solid films on your platform, that they were marketed them beautifully and treated them very specially. It was given the respect and love of a theatrical release and so much more. For that we as filmmakers are eternally grateful.
Thank you all.