Amazon bets on Netflix-like videos to push Prime memberships

Amazon wants online shoppers to purchase its Prime membership, which promises faster next day delivery. To push these members, add new ones, and to make them continue to buy Amazon’s services, the American e-commerce giant will now offer members on-demand video at no extra cost.

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Amazon wants online shoppers to purchase its Prime membership, which promises faster next day delivery. To push these members, add new ones, and to make them continue to buy Amazon’s services, the American e-commerce giant will now offer members on-demand video at no extra cost.

It plans to build an eclectic selection of shows and movies, both Indian and international, through a mix of English, Hindi and four other regional languages.

On Wednesday, Amit Agarwal, head of Amazon India told HT that there are nine Amazon Indian Originals (exclusive) in production, and the company will keep adding more Indian content on to the platform.

The membership, which aims to build loyalty, comes at an annual subscription fee of Rs 499, was the single largest selling item during the month of Diwali.

Prime video competes with Netflix and YouTube, globally, but in India the competition is tougher. To add to the global list, there is Hungama, Hotstar, Sony Liv, Airtel’s Wynk, Spuul and others.

“It doesn’t matter what others offer… Prime is a unique hybrid of a physical and content marketplace…” said Tim Leslie, Vice President, Amazon Video International.

But, this comes at a cost, and Amazon will lose more money than it will make through subscription. There is cost of making exclusive content. “… The goal is to make the Prime experience better,” said Leslie.

The company is already losing millions of dollars in India in a market share battle against homegrown rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal. Videos will only increase its burn.

Amazon’s push on videos comes at a time when YouTube has put its weight behind regional and exclusive content, and is in talks with large production houses, television channels and studios, including Yash Raj Films, Shemaroo, Zee and Sony, and a large number of south Indian studios.

Others, too, aren’t willing to give way. “We will continue to execute on our focus of providing the best quality Indian content… our upcoming product releases and content additions will reflect that,” said Spuul India CEO, Rajiv Vaidya.

Exclusive content, like exclusive deals in e-commerce, has become critical to attract watchers. Amazon has partnered with more than a couple of dozen production houses, actors and directors, including Vikram Malhotra, Ritesh Sidhwani, Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Anushka Sharma and R Madhavan, to develop new series.

But, Amazon isn’t spending uselessly. India has 350 million internet users (second largest in the world), and Bollywood is one of the three biggest obsessions in the country – cricket and astrology being the other two. “Prime is the gateway to best of Amazon… We want to change the way Indians watch videos,” Agarwal said.

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