Amazon Exec Talks Asia Strategy, Why Prime Video Price in India Is "Just About Right"

Amazon
'Inside Edge'

The streaming service is constantly changing its offerings in its fastest-growing country in its first year in terms of Prime members, James Farrell tells the APOS convention in Bali, also discussing its approach in Japan.

While Amazon Prime is getting more expensive in the U.S., Amazon Prime Video is happy with its pricing and production strategies in the Asia and Pacific region.

An Amazon top executive from the region during the APOS convention in Bali, Indonesia discussed its approach in Asia and discussed key co-productions in Japan and India and the reasons for their success.

The streaming video service is, among other things, constantly changing its offerings to accommodate the transforming demographics in India through the growth of its subscriber base, said James Farrell, Amazon Prime Video head of content, Asia-Pacific, at APOS. The country was its fastest-growing country in its first year in terms of Prime members.

"It is amazing how the first two to five million subscribers are different from the 20 to 100 million," he explained. "As more lower-income customers signed on to the service, their content preference changed." Amazon's streaming service debuted in India in December 2016 as part of Amazon Video's global launch.

While Amazon is hiking the Prime subscription fee for its U.S. members from $99 to $119 a year, in India, the yearly subscription fee is the economical Rs.999, which is equivalent to $14.95, or a little bit more than a dollar a month. Farrell thinks the low price is adequate to support big productions through sheer volume. "India has so much potential. It is the fastest growing region in terms of Prime members growth," he said. "The pricing is just about right. We're not just catering to the top 1 percent."

Amazon launched the successful English-language cricket drama Inside Edge within and beyond India in mid-2017, on which it partnered with Excel Entertainment to produce. "When they came to shoot the next season, we knew it is working," said Excel co-founder Ritesh Sidhwani. "The audience is engaging in discussion about wanting to know more about the show, and we've got lots of positive feedback."

The younger generation in India grew up consuming content from around the world, so the Amazon-Excel approach is to present an evolved storytelling, Sidhwani said. In addition, their preference is binge-watching. "They don't want to watch one episode a week and wait for another week, they want all the 10 episodes. That's the way forward."

In Japan, Amazon Prime Video rolled out its services in 2015. It announced a 15-series slate of Japanese co-productions the subsequent year and has since then made seven of the shows available around the world, and one of them in the Asia region. One of the highlights is Documental, the competition show headlined by Japanese comedy mega-star Hitoshi Matsumoto, which pits a group of comedians in a locked room against each other. The last one to laugh wins. The show, co-produced by entertainment conglomerate and talent stable Yoshimoto Kogyo and harkening back to the golden age of Japanese variety shows, is now releasing its fifth season in Japan. The first season just became available globally in April.

"The audience in Japan wants to see something crazier, variety shows that they are not able to see on television or anywhere else. The roster of comedians at Yoshimoto wants to explore concepts that recall the heyday of Japanese variety shows," said Farrell. "We played the middleman. The comedians knew what they want, and customers and fans knew what they wanted to see—we just connected the two."

Now the show is getting good numbers in North America as well, said Akihiko Okamoto, co-president and COO of Yoshimoto Kogyo, which manages the careers of 6,000 artists in Japan. "The collaboration is letting the comedians realize their dreams and adding exposure globally," he said.