The Indian Connection: U.S. Streamers ‘Full Go’ Targeting Second Most-Populous Country

With China effectively shutting the door to U.S. streaming services looking to launch operations in the erstwhile communist country, companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney are aggressively targeting India to jumpstart subscriber growth.

With 1.4 billion people, including 1.1 billion on portable media devices such as smartphones, India is fertile ground for SVOD platforms looking for growth to justify multi-billion dollar infrastructure/content investments and the future of their movie/TV program distribution.

In 2020, there were about 60 platforms operating in India, with YouTube, Disney+Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Facebook representing 85% market share, according to Media Partners Asia. The country’s OTT video market is projected to grow 26% annually, reaching $4.5 billion in revenue by 2025.

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“Subscription based online video services benefited significantly in 2020 as the country went into the lockdown,” MPA executive Mihir Shah said in a statement.

Assisting sub growth is a massive market of affordable smartphones, inexpensive data plans and limited government regulation on foreign content streaming within its borders. The latter could be changing as the government’s ministry of information and broadcasting recently granted itself for the first time jurisdiction over streaming video content.

The Indian SVOD market will remain competitive as Disney+Hotstar continues to scale its business, while Netflix and Prime Video deepen partnerships with mobile and fixed broadband operators, according to Shah.

“Local premium content and sports rights will help broadcaster-backed platforms gain share,” Shah said. “Increased reach and engagement with rural millennials will improve monetization for short-form video platforms.

Indeed, Disney, through its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, inherited Hotstar, the Indian video service streaming movies and shows in 8 Indian languages. The upside to Disney+ has been immediate. The service topped 88 million subscribers last month, with 30% of that growth originating in India via the rebranded Hotstar service.

Netflix’s first original Indian drama, “Sacred Games.”

In 2018, Netflix co-founder/co-CEO Reed Hastings said the SVOD pioneer was shooting for 100 million Indian subs — driven in part by a mobile-only plan priced at 199 rupees ($2.72) per month. Disney+Hotstar has a similarly priced plan. Netflix reportedly spent about $400 million on Indian content in 2019 and 2020 — enjoying global success with original dramas “Sacred Games,” and “Delhi Crime,” among others.

“In the U.S., people pay $50 for mobile phone access,” Hastings told a leadership summit in New Dehli in 2019. “Pricing is very low here, and the market is very large. That’s why our 199 rupees a month pricing is very competitive.”

Amazon Jan. 13 launched a new $1.20 monthly mobile-only video streaming plan — the cheapest among U.S. services operating in India. The service is through a partnership with wireless carrier Bharti Airtel, offering prepaid subs video streaming for 89 rupees ($1.20) a month after a 30-day free trial. The offer also includes 6 gigabytes of data. Airtel has about 300 million subscribers.

Amazon reportedly is eyeing securing Indian Premier League cricket in the future, with Disney+Hotstar’s carriage rights ending in 2023.

“India is one of our fastest growing territories in the world with very high engagement rates,” Jay Marine, VP of Prime Video Worldwide, said in a statement. “Buoyed by this response, we want to double-down by offering our entertainment content to an even larger base of Indian customers.”

Amazon Bows $1.20 Mobile Video Streaming Plan in India

With 1.33 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world by population after China. Amazon Jan. 13 launched a new $1.20 monthly mobile-only video streaming plan targeting the country’s 1.1 billion cellphone users.

The service is through a partnership with wireless carrier Bharti Airtel, offering prepaid subs video streaming for 89 rupees ($1.20) a month after a 30-day free trial. The offer also includes 6 gigabytes of data. Airtel has about 300 million subscribers.

“We want to democratize the access to content and through this unique offering reach hundreds of millions of users,” Gaurav Gandhi, director and India head for Amazon Prime Video, told Bloomberg.

Gandhi said that about 85% of Internet access in India is done through mobile devices with 90% of all mobile subs using prepaid plans. Netflix India currently offers a mobile-only plan for 199 rupees ($2.72) while Disney+Hotstar offers basic service for 99 rupees ($1.35).

India’s streaming video market is projected to reach $4.5 billion through 2025, according to research firm Media Asia Partners, which added that local original streaming content approached $700 million in 2020.

Amazon, which reportedly is looking to bid for Italian Serie A professional soccer, is also eyeing Indian Premier League cricket, which Disney Hotstar holds the carriage rights to through 2023.

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Amazon Prime Video Eyeing Italian Serie A Soccer Rights

In a major move, Amazon Prime Video reportedly is set to bid on exclusive TV rights to Italy’s Serie A professional soccer league. The deal for three years could cost the SVOD platform upwards of $1.4 billion, and would put into competition against Comcast’s Sky, which is the current rights holder, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

The league has set a Jan. 26 deadline for carriage rights.

Amazon, unlike other SVOD services, has not shied away from live sports, with Prime Video currently streaming NFL Thursday Night Football in the U.S., in addition to the English Premier League and select rugby matches overseas. This deal would be different as Amazon would have exclusive broadcast and streaming rights.

When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox’s assets, it included India’s Hotstar, which has streaming rights to cricket — a national sport in the world’s second-most-populous country. Disney has now rebranded SVOD to Disney+Hotstar, and in the process “acquired” 30% of Disney Plus’ 88.6 million subscriber base.

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Report: India’s SVOD Market Topped $1.4 Billion in Revenue in 2020 — Driven by Netflix & Co.

New data from Media Partners Asia found India’s subscription VOD market generated about $1.4 billion in revenue in 2020, with projections of $1.9 billion by 2025 — with 80% of the revenue generated by Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video. Indeed, 30% of Disney’s 88.6 million SVOD subscribers originate in India.

With 1.36 billion people, India trails just China as the most-populous country in the world. Unlike its erstwhile Communist neighbor to the East, India features open markets for SVOD highly coveted by Netflix, Disney and Amazon, among others.

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The country has been a major focus for Netflix, with the SVOD pioneer investing more than $400 million in content and infrastructure over the past two years — including adding a Hindi language option.

“Subscription based online video services benefited significantly in 2020 as the country went into the lockdown,” Mihir Shah, VP at MPA, said in a statement. “Key players are investing in premium local content while leveraging sports, movie rights and aggressive consumer pricing to drive subscriber adoption.”

MPA said YouTube remains the market leader in ad-supported VOD, accounting for 67% of total online video advertising in 2020. Its market share is expected to decline to 55% in 2025 as domestic broadcaster-backed platforms and short-form video players expand market share.

MPA estimates that online video advertising reached an estimated $909 million in 2020, down about 2% from 2019. OTT content investment reached $700 million. With budgets for original and local content acquisitions increasing, costs are projected increase by 18% annually through 2025 to $1.6 billion.

“Local premium content and sports rights will help broadcaster-backed platforms gain share,” Shah said. “Increased reach and engagement with rural millennials will improve monetization for short-form video platforms.”


NFL: Arizona Cardinals vs. S.F. 49ers Most-Exclusively Streamed Football Game

The Dec. 26 NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals was the first professional regular season football game to be exclusively streamed online without a national broadcast. The week 15 matchup was viewed in part by 11.2 million people, including 4.8 million “average minute audience” on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch — a record for an NFL game. The game was also broadcast locally in San Francisco and Phoenix — upping the “average minute audience” to 5.9 million.

Notably, the NFL said that viewers streamed more than 800 million combined minutes of the game, which would rank it among Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 streaming content chart tracking Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+.

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Prime Video is the current streaming partner for “NFL Thursday Night Football,” which is broadcast nationally by Fox Sports.


Report: Disney+ Tops 72 Million U.S. Monthly Viewers in 2020

Disney announced on Dec. 2 that its branded subscription service had reached 86.8 million subs, with 30%, or 26 million, originating from India. Now, new estimates from eMarketer contend the service will end 2020 with 72.4 million monthly viewers in the U.S.

The New York-based research film remains bullish on Disney over the next four years, suggesting 33% of the U.S. population will use Disney+ by 2024. Of course industry behemoth Netflix will top all domestic services with more than 182 million projected U.S. viewers, followed by Amazon Prime Video with 154 million. eMarketer registers a viewer as anyone who streams a service via app or website at least once a month.

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“So far, other streaming entrants suffered from distribution limitations, confusing branding (HBO Max), or a lack of quality programming (Peacock),” Ross Benes, senior analyst with eMarketer, wrote in a note. “None of these problems have hampered Disney+, which will become the third-most-popular U.S. streaming service by the end of 2024.”


Nielsen: Streaming Video Minutes Diversify as Netflix’s ‘Crown’ Again Dominates Weekly Chart

Consumers loved streaming subscription video over the Thanksgiving weekend. Nielsen said the top six streamed programs on television generated more than 8.43 billion combined minutes — up nearly 7% from the previous-week period. The tally included six programs topping 1 billion minutes, double the prior-period week.

Netflix original series “The Crown” again led all programs with 2.21 billion minutes streamed over 40 episodes — down 34% from the previous week. The SVOD pioneer again dominated with 90% of the top programs, with “The Mandalorian” on Disney+ as the lone outsider, in the No. 4 spot. Nielsen’s chart includes Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

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Source: Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings (Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television.

Amazon Prime Video Gearing Up for Formula One Racing?

Amazon Prime Video, unlike Netflix and Disney+, live-streams sports. The free SVOD component of the Prime membership e-commerce platform currently features the U.K.’s Premier League soccer and NFL Thursday Night Football. Now, media reports say the streamer is eyeing Formula One auto racing owned by Liberty Media.

The potential distribution agreement would see Prime Video streaming select races targeting the younger F1 fans accustomed to streaming entertainment rather than watching pay-TV.

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“[Amazon is] an incredibly important potential partner and an opportunity for us to expand and grow our business,” Chase Carey, CEO of F1, told the Financial Times. While Amazon has made no official comment on a possible deal, Comcast’s Sky satellite TV distributor currently pays about $250 million annually through 2024 to broadcast F1 races. The sport has myriad regional broadcast deals around the world.

Amazon current foray into motoring includes original series “The Grand Tour” featuring the cast from BBC’s “Top Gear.”

Carey said that with most broadcasters incorporating proprietary streaming services, Prime Video would make a perfect fit. The direct input on a deal from the former CEO of 21st Century Fox only extends until the end of the month when he turns over chief executive duties to Stefano Domenicali, boss at carmaker Lamborghini. Carey remains chairman of F1, which Liberty Media acquired for $8 billion in 2016.

But with the coronavirus pandemic causing havoc to big attendance events like F1 racing, Liberty has had to infuse $1.4 billion in the league this year just to keep the lights on.

Carey said transferring F1 to live streaming would take baby steps with a fan base accustomed to following the sport via pay-TV, including those “who probably are not quite accustomed to watching their major favorite sporting events on a digital platform.”

F1, like most professional sports leagues, launched its own SVOD platform in 2018. Having it directly available on Prime Video would open the platform up to more than 100 million Prime members. Netflix recently launched a documentary series on F1 called Drive to Survive.

“Now people want a 24/7 experience,” Mehul Kapadia, COO of Motorsport Network told FT. “[The question is] how can you make your fans feel like they’re in the driver’s seat? That’s how the potential of the sport can be unlocked more.”


‘Mandalorian’ Keeps No. 1 Spot on Parrot’s TV Charts; ‘The Expanse’ Enters Digital Originals Top 10

The Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” topped Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings for a ninth-straight week the week ended Dec. 19, and also held onto the top spot on Parrot’s list of all TV shows for a seventh week. It had 125.8 times the demand of an average TV series for the week and saw a 0.91% rise in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity.

The finale of the second season of “The Mandalorian” debuted Dec. 18, and its action-packed ending is likely to keep it high on the charts for the next week as fans have time to process the episode.

“The Mandalorian” continues to give a boost to other “Star Wars” properties, most notably the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which remained at No. 3 on the digital originals chart with 47.7 times average demand, though expressions were down 6.3%.

The Amazon Prime Video series “The Expanse” climbed into the digital originals top 10 at No. 7, up eight spots from the previous week due to a 65.9% jump in demand expressions after the premiere of its fifth season. The show had 38.1 times average demand.

Netflix’s perennially popular “Stranger Things” rose three spots to No. 2 on the digital originals chart, with 50.1 times average demand and expressions up 16.8%. During the week fans were able to watch the cast members of the show play a real game of Dungeons & Dragons on YouTube.

Hulu’s revival of the animated series “Animaniacs” dropped two spots to No. 4 on the digital originals chart. It had a 13.5% drop in demand expressions to give it 45.6 times average demand.

Netflix’s “Cobra Kai” climbed a spot to No. 5. With anticipation for the third season of the “Karate Kid” spinoff arriving in January, demand expressions were up 9.5%, giving the show 45.3 times average demand.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

After “Mandalorian,” The No. 2 overall TV series remained “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 89.5 times average demand. “Stranger Things” was No. 7 and “Clone Wars” was No. 8.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.

Report: Streaming Video Services to See Subscriber Growth Slowdown in 2021; Apple TV+ to Lose 8 Million Subs

Approaching 2021 could see a significant slowdown in subscriber growth among major subscription streaming video services, according to new data from Omdia/Informa Tech. The London research firm said that following outlier sub growth this year due to the pandemic among major services such as Netflix and Disney+, sustaining a similar growth curve next year could be challenging. Omdia said SVOD services worldwide added a combined 226 million subs in 2020.

“All industries and economies tend to move between waves of growth and pools of stagnation and SVOD is no exception,” Rua Aguete, senior director of media and entertainment, said in a note. “While 2020 was a year for the records, 2021 will be a year of industry-wide cooling despite the myriad services coming from big Hollywood players including Discovery, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia.”

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Not surprisingly, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video all saw significant net sub adds stemming from pandemic-affected markets. In 2021, these services are expected to see declines, with Netflix and Prime Video eyeing their slowest sub growth since 2015.

Netflix and Disney+ had 195 million and 86.8 million subs at the end of the third quarter (ended Sept. 30) and Dec. 2, respectively.

Notably, Aquete  estimates AppleTV+ will lose 8 million subs by the end of 2021, due in part to the termination of free 12-month trials and relative lack of original content compared to competing services.

“The reason for this stark contrast with the year before is that SVOD, more than many other types of entertainment, must maintain a healthy pipeline of potential new subscribers and carefully manage the high level of churn that is incumbent to monthly subscription products,” she said. “2020 has seen this pipeline exhausted; new subscribers have been converted at astonishing rates and the pool of subscribers in potential have been vastly reduced.”

To sustain sub growth, Aquete said SVOD services such as Netflix need to partner with pay-TV operators and telecoms providing direct access and integrated content libraries to their subs.

“2020 may have been a year of hubris for the SVOD industry, booming as all others struggled, but 2021 will be a year of humility; for the first time big SVOD players must rely on former rivals for their own success,” Aquete said.