[TechSparks 2020] Direct-to-digital releases watched in 4,000 Indian cities in first week: Amazon Prime Video's Gaurav Gandhi

On Day 5 of TechSparks 2020, Amazon Prime Video's Country Manager Gaurav Gandhi shared how the OTT platform is building a 'local service' in India with 'genre-defining originals' and other innovation.

Earlier this year, Amazon Prime Video set off the 'direct-to-digital' trend in India by premiering a bunch of Bollywood films ahead of their theatrical release.

It got the industry buzzing, of course, with many opining that OTT platforms could not match up to the big screen in terms of reach. However, numbers tell a different story.

Direct-to-digital releases like Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi, among others, were watched in 4,000 cities and towns in India within the first week of streaming, Gaurav Gandhi, Director and Country General Manager, Amazon Prime Video, India, shared in a fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at TechSparks 2020.

One in five viewers of Amazon Prime Video's Indian original content is international, with direct-to-digital film releases watched across 180 countries, Gaurav revealed.

Amazon Prime Video's Gaurav Gandhi in conversation with Shradha Sharma at TechSparks 2020

6X growth in hours watched

While OTTs have gained significantly from the closure of multiplexes and theatres due to the lockdown, Gaurav highlighted that this sector had been experiencing tailwinds even prior to the pandemic.

He said, "It has been an exciting time for streaming in general with ubiquitous mobile access, cheap handsets, very affordable data. India is one of the fastest-growing markets for Prime Video. We've grown 6X in terms of hours watched per user."

Amazon Prime Video India has had a stellar year with a string of successful originals, including Paatal Lok, Bandish Bandits, Four More Shots Please 2, and Mirzapur 2, among others. Add to that, it has premiered 19 films across languages in the last few months.

Putting the growth in perspective, Gaurav explained,

"There are some environmental reasons that drove the growth. One, India has mostly single-TV homes. So, the mobile phone is really the TV in the house. Two, for a country that loves films, we're the most under-screened. Streaming has been able to unlock that demand in the last few years. We've built Prime Video as the theatre at home."

Amazon Prime Video India has grown 6X in hours watched per user

Building Prime Video as a 'local service'

Contrary to public opinion, Gaurav said video streaming was already a pan-India phenomenon. Amazon Prime Video, for instance, reaches 4,300 cities and towns, and "programmes for the 10 Indias".

Overall, more than 300 million people in India stream video on their mobiles — either ad-supported or paid. "To say it [OTT] isn't mainstream is incorrect. It is really, really deep. It is not a metro thing," Gaurav asserted.

He further elaborated,

"We have content in English plus nine Indian languages; UI in three local languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu. We're available on all devices, we have telco partnerships, and we have localised payments. We've also done some genre-defining stuff in originals. We're focused on building a local service and showcasing authentic local talent."

Gaurav shared that Amazon Prime Video was taking a "long-term view" of the entertainment market and was out to democratise the storytelling ecosystem.

He signed off with, "It all starts with a unique story. And then we build on that. We always cast for the character. We don’t cast for star power. We don't shy away from newcomers. All this involves taking risks. You have to walk down lesser trodden paths."

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TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai