What we are seeing and learning in global entertainment is that compelling stories that are made with high quality cinematic production, great writing, direction and acting, will travel. A show like Mirzapur that has a Shakespearean plot, although it is a desi story, will resonate with the global audience.
Amazon Prime Video has upped its game in India with a slew of originals, from thrillers to talent hunt shows. Tim Leslie, in a conversation with Anirban Roy Choudhury, talks about the lure of Indian shows abroad, its programming strategy, appealing to rural audiences in India, and more. Edited excerpts:
While mobile is the primary medium for video consumption currently, what would be the share of laptop/PC, smart TV, and Amazon Fire TV Stick?
India is definitely a mobile first country and we have seen rapid growth in the number of mobile customers. More than half of our customers watch content on mobile and a large percentage of them watches it in their living rooms on smart TVs, gaming consoles and the Fire TV Stick. India, like other countries, will continue to have high viewership on mobile, especially since many Indian customers have only one TV in their homes and, therefore, the mobile phone becomes their second viewing device.
How are Amazon’s Indian originals being received overseas?
What we are seeing and learning in global entertainment is that compelling stories that are made with high quality cinematic production, great writing, direction and acting, will travel. American shows have travelled globally — Jack Ryan and Homecoming are very popular in India. In the same way, I think a show like Mirzapur that has a Shakespearean plot, although it is a desi story, will resonate with the global audience.
What works best: fiction or non-fiction (including stand-up shows)?
The key is to create something different. Comicstaan is a different format that hasn’t been seen before on terrestrial TV, and so is Mirzapur. It is important to give customers something unique; a show may appeal to some and not to others. Comicstaan appeals to a young audience while a show like Mirzapur will have an appeal across audiences. Both have been successful and we will continue to make both kinds of shows.
Considering how important rural video consumption is, what is your strategy to tap customers there?
In addition to providing the largest selection of new Bollywood releases, we also have the largest selection of regional movies and content in various Indian regional languages in addition to Hindi — Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and most recently, Kannada — and we will continue to grow that. We are also going to make our service more accessible to the people in the hinterland. We recently launched a Hindi user interface so that customers can search, discover, browse and get support in Hindi; and we will do the same for Tamil and Telugu. We have launched our first Telugu show, Gangsters, and are looking at launching a Tamil show soon.
While Mirzapur encourages binge-watching, the earlier shows were part-binge, part-episodic or purely episodic. How do you decide the programming structure?
We listen to our customers and experiment with different formats. Mirzapur is a nine-episodic binge release; other shows may be part-binge and part-episodic. For example, with Breathe, we released the first four episodes and then weekly episodes thereafter. Sometimes, customers want something released episodically, particularly if it is a thriller or a contest show, and that lets us create buzz about it. While binging is very popular, a lot of customers do like other ways to consume content.
Are you looking at acquiring any sports properties in India, now that you have started streaming sports?
We have launched live sports globally, but it is still early days. We are looking at sports opportunities around the globe, but have nothing specific to announce yet.
Where does India rank for Amazon Prime Video among the 240 countries it is present in?
India is very important; a huge opportunity for Prime and Prime Video. We are investing heavily in delivering the best retail and video experience here. Customers who sign up for Prime in India’s shipping pipeline end up streaming a video within 24 hours.