Amazon Inks Groundbreaking Deal for 14 Indian Stand-Up Comedy Specials

Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video India
Amazon Prime Video India director and country head Nitesh Kripalani (center in jacket) and OML COO Ajay Nair (left) with Indian comedians who will feature on the service

The deal reflects the streamer's strategy of ramping up local content.

Netflix may have changed the U.S. stand-up comedy landscape with its multimillion-dollar deals with the likes of Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, but in India, it's Amazon who's blazing a trail.

The video streamer has ordered 14 stand-up comedy specials featuring some of the country's top comedians, even though it has yet to sign up any in the U.S.

The hourlong specials, made in partnership with Indian entertainment firm Only Much Louder, will begin streaming in May and will be available to viewers in India and also worldwide across 200 countries. Financial terms of the deal were not given.

“We want to change the way customers consume entertainment by bringing this fantastic collection by OML’s best comedy talent to Prime members exclusively and on-demand,” Amazon Prime Video India director and country head Nitesh Kripalani said in a statement.

OML chief operating officer Ajay Nair pointed out that “stand-up comedy in India has become massive over the last few years, with a huge fan base.” He added that Amazon Prime Video “is a great destination for fans to watch full hourlong sets of their favorite comics in one go.”

Some of the comedians already have existing shows that have begun streaming on Amazon, such as Sapan Verma (Obsessive Comedic Disorder) and Sorabh Pant (My Dad Thinks He’s Funny). In addition, the lineup includes Kanan Gill, Kenny Sebastian, Zakir Khan, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Naveen Richard, Anuvab Pal (whose credits as a screenwriter include Loins of Punjab Presents), Varun Thakur, Azeem Banatwalla, Neville Shah, Aadar Malik and S Aravind. Also included is well-known comedy collective East India Company's upcoming live show based on its popular EIC Outrage series.

Amazon and Netflix both launched their services in India last year, which has led the companies to announce various local-content deals in a bid to win over Indian audiences. Compared to Netflix, Amazon has unleashed a more aggressive local-content strategy. While launching its service last December, Amazon announced 18 original series, which are at various stages of production across multiple genres, in partnership with various local producers. These are in addition to the newly announced 14 comedy specials with OML. Earlier, Amazon also announced film-acquisition deals with some leading Indian banners such as Dharma Productions and T-Series.

Besides some film-acquisition deals, by contrast, Netflix has only announced one original Indian series, Sacred Games, and one comedy special with well-known comic and actor Vir Das.

But in the U.S., Netflix is spending big on comedy. Last year, it signed a major deal with Chris Rock, with sources indicating that the comedian secured a whopping $40 million for two stand-up specials.

Earlier this week, the company announced a multifaceted deal with Jerry Seinfeld in which his award-winning Crackle series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, will move with new episodes to Netflix, with the comedian also set to film two new stand-up specials exclusively for the streamer. He also will help develop scripted and unscripted programming, and while financial terms were not given, many industry watchdogs pegged the price tag of Netflix's Seinfeld deal at $100 million.

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