Mumbai: Prime Video, India’s most loved entertainment destination, participated in an insightful OTT roundtable session on ‘What's the secret ingredient that gives Indian content its global appeal?’ at Film Bazaar at the ongoing 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa. Sushant Sreeram, country director, Prime Video, India joined the conversation that was moderated by Rajeev Masand, COO at Dharma Cornerstone (DCA). The panel also featured Prithul Kumar, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Managing Director, NFDC, as one of the co-panelists, along with other eminent leaders from the industry.
“I believe we are very close to having that definitive breakout hit internationally because the signs are all there when you see your stories travel so brilliantly,” shared Prime Video, India country director Sushant Sreeram talking about when India will have its own breakout moment on the international stage. He also spoke about the need for authentic local storytelling; these are stories that resonate with local audiences and then become breakout hits across the country with audiences outside the country eventually discovering and loving these rooted narratives, giving examples of Pushpa: The Rise and Kantara. He underscored that 50% viewership of Prime Video’s local language content comes from outside the home states, while 25% audience of Indian titles comes from outside India. Continuing in the vein he said, “I think our storytelling has gotten incredibly rich. We have creators, studios and talent imagining a world of great storytelling, and with streaming providing the reach for every story to find its own audience, we are already breaking out internationally.” He cited examples of Prime Video’s Original series like Farzi, Jubilee and Made in Heaven that were loved not just within the country but also outside. While Farzi was streamed by viewers in 170 countries and territories just over the launch weekend and entered the top 10 trending titles lists on Prime Video in multiple countries beyond India, including the U.S., UK, Canada, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, Made in Heaven in its launch weekend it entered the top 10 trending titles lists on Prime Video in over 20 countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. Jubilee has been on a winning spree at every award show, including the Best Series award at the International Film Festival of Melbourne.
Responding to a question on independent, low budget or experimental filmmakers not finding a home for their films, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Joint Secretary (Films) and NFDC MD Prithul Kumar elaborated that just a few years ago, when streaming services did not exist, an independent filmmaker would have found it tough to go to an exhibitor and even conceptualize distributing their films. However, he added, streaming services have enabled such films and filmmakers finding a home for their films on OTT.
Elucidating further on this point, he added that streaming services have helped content producers dream big, even if they have smaller budgets, something that they were unable to do in the pre-streaming era. He highlighted that from the government’s perspective, the sector is doing fairly well and getting investments into India.
Responding to the question whether streaming is becoming the domain of big-budget star vehicles exclusively, Sushant cited Prime Video’s content slate released in 2023, emphasizing the diversity of titles and talent, from Farzi and Jee Karda to Happy Family Conditions Apply to docuseries like Cinema Marte Dum Tak, Dancing on The Grave, among others, emphasizing that the diversity made for interesting storytelling. He added, “Many of the shows that we have launched this year and over the past 7 years have been with new upcoming creators. We have over 100 projects in various stages of production and development. While we will continue to bring back the successful franchises – Mirzapur, The Family Man, Pataal Lok, our conscious effort has been to ensure that we also continue to work with new and upcoming creators.” He also spoke about streaming not only providing access to content, or expanding the linguistic palette for customers, but it also acting as a window into many cultures.
While discussing the impact of the direct-to-streaming (DTS) model on the overall creative ecosystem, as well as on the customers Sushant said, “Our approach has been pretty straightforward, if it is a good story that we think we ought to bring to customers, in over 240 countries and territories, we find a way to make it work. DTS is a part of our repertoire of being able to bring stories to customers”. He elaborated how Prime Video has not just pioneered the DTS model, but also produces Original movies like Maja Ma, Ammu, and the upcoming Ae Watan Mere Watan, and co-productions like Ram Setu, Neeyat, the upcoming Yodha as well, which premiere first in theatres before coming on the service. “We actually started off with the DTS approach in India during the pandemic and in over 3-4 years, we have had over 60 DTS releases,” he added, “I believe that direct-to-streaming has been a win-win for customers globally, as well as for the creators to be able to think untethered of the distribution.”
Making a point on the longevity of streaming content, Sushant said, “It's an incredibly diverse landscape of entertainment. There is no one language, genre, or one type of customer. We had that epic realization very early on. Our programming across 10 languages, across a very diverse state of genres, for very different customer types, keeps us rooted in the reality.” Giving example of the longevity of a show, he spoke of Mirzapur, Pataal Lok, The Family Man, Made in Heaven. He said, “If you look back to 2018-19, Mirzapur was this show that that nobody had heard of. Now we get to call it a culture defining show, but back then it was just a story well told. I think if we back the right creators and honest storytelling, then the shows go on to become these large culture-defining moments. Today, 6 of 10 shows on IMDb’s list of highest rated Indian streaming shows are from Prime Video.”
Prime Video’s participation at IFFI is a testament of the pivotal role video streaming sector is playing in enabling the growth of India’s creative economy, and acting as a robust platform to showcase Indian stories, talent, and creators in the global arena.
Over the years, IFFI has established itself as a melting pot of myriad rich cultures and cinematic excellence, as it brings the world’s most outstanding films and shows, as well as stellar creators, talent, and storytellers together under one roof. As one of Asia’s oldest film festivals, it celebrates the rich cinematic excellence, creativity, and innovation that embodies the rich and vast entertainment ecosystem within India and from around the world.