Anirban Roy Choudhury

“Our consumption comes from over 4,000 towns and cities”: Gaurav Gandhi, Amazon Prime Video India

The director and country general manager of the leading digital VOD streaming platform talks about lockdown, media choices, audience engagement, among other things.

Amazon Prime Video was launched in India in 2017. Since then, it has made sure that most billboards in top cities scream about the ‘Original’ it is about to launch. According to EY, over 10 million subscribers in India paid for 21 million OTT video subscriptions in 2019. The outdoor marketing blitzkrieg is worth it. It isn’t as much about ‘return on investment’, as it is about a ‘we are giants’ statement.

But all this was in the pre-COVID era. During lockdown, nobody stepped out of their homes. So, the billboards made no sense. The multiplexes were shut, and since no fresh episodes were being filmed, television resorted to broadcasting reruns of mythological shows.

Over the top video-on-demand (VOD) platforms were the only ones in the media and entertainment ecosystem to throw new content. The likes of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, ZEE5, Hotstar, SonyLIV, VOOT Select, etc., were the only sources of fresh entertainment. And they all left no stone unturned to rake in new subscribers.

Amazon Prime Video launched ‘Paatal Lok’, a thriller set in the Hindi heartland of India. It’s the story an inconsequential police inspector trying to prove his worth, and a few heinous criminals. So, how was the show marketed during the COVID pandemic?

“We realised that, given the lockdown, the media choices will be limited. So, the team decided to go even bigger on social and digital media, with support from TV,” says Gaurav Gandhi, director and country general manager, Amazon Prime Video India.

To engage (the audience) and build intrigue, Amazon Prime Video decided to release the trailer at 11:34 a.m. (IST). “The time, if read upside down, spells HELL (Paatlal). This was only revealed when we provided a preview of the trailer on the microsite 12 hours before its official release, at 11:34 p.m.,” informs Gandhi.

“Twenty-four hours before the show’s launch, the creators, producers and the talent (of the show) turned their Twitter profile pictures (upside down) to build the narrative of an upside down/inverted world,” he added.

Producer of the show, Anushka Sharma promoting Paatal Lok
Producer of the show, Anushka Sharma promoting Paatal Lok

With the upsurge in video streaming, there has been a significant transformation in content consumption and audience preferences, in terms of medium, form and format. Says Gandhi, “Amazon Prime Video’s audience base is large, with consumption coming from over 4,000 towns and cities across India.”

The customers, Amazon Prime Video claims, are not just exploring and enjoying Indian ‘Originals’, like ‘Paatal Lok’, ‘The Family Man’, ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Inside Edge’ and ‘Breathe’, but also watching global ‘Originals’, like ‘The Boys’, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and ‘Jack Ryan’.

Amazon Prime Video India has programs in 10 languages including nine Indian languages, and has the user interface in four languages which includes English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, “With a focus of entertaining the many Indias,” asserts Gandhi.“

In the last five months, our customers have appreciated and loved ‘The Forgotten Army’, ‘Four More Shots Please!’ (S2), ‘Panchayat’ and ‘Paatal Lok’, and are now eagerly awaiting ‘Breathe: Into the Shadows’,” he added.

India is only second to the US, in terms of digital video consumption. With 8.43 hours of consumption per person per week, the second-most populous country is way above the global average of 6.8 hours. The demand for content, or rather ‘Originals’ (in OTT lingo), has only grown in the country.

Source: FICCI-EY 2020
Source: FICCI-EY 2020

Gandhi believes streaming ‘Originals’ has raised the bar for content in India. “We now have an audience base, who appreciate high quality, world-class Indian shows, and also continuously expect to be surprised and delighted with differentiated content.”

According to him, compelling programming that is unique and something the customers will enjoy, is the order of the day. “At the end of the day, customers’ love for the content comes on the back of great storytelling and the quality of performances,” Gandhi concludes.

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