Reliance Jio readies push into original content; in talks with 18-20 production houses

Sunny Sen December 20, 2017 5 min

Phone services provider Reliance Jio is ready to take on Amazon Prime and Netflix with a push into original and exclusive video content aimed at differentiating its content offerings in an increasingly crowded market. Multiple sources said Jio is in talks with 18 to 20 production houses to have multiple format content on its platform.

“There is so much of video content out there for streaming… but with original and exclusive content the viewer will always come back to one platform,” said one of the sources, who is close to the company.

The source also said that Jio is looking at a multiple format for its video play – movies, short films, reality series, comedy and even experiential content like short videos on food shows and travel, and even education.

The company has already tied up with Roy Kapur Films and director-producer Vikram Bhatt for original content. With others like Arre, AltBalaji and Viacom, Jio has closed exclusive deals where content will be available only on Jio apart from their individual platforms.

“Multiple tie-ups help building a steady pipeline of content… once anyone has done that it becomes easy to charge the customer. The customer can look forward to something new everyday,” said Girish Menon, partner and head of media and entertainment at consultancy firm KPMG.

Jio is the world’s fastest growing telecom company of its size. Between the March and June, its subscriber base grew by 13.51% to 123.36 million subscribers, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s latest performance indicator report. The company had a 10.19% share of the India mobile phone user base.

More than 30 million of Jio’s subscribers are from rural areas  – most attracted by the company’s aggressive pricing and data plans. JioTV, which is a streaming platform of content TV stations, and JioMovies have been a big draw and are among the top streaming apps in India.

Jio is looking at distinctive formats and genres of content that would be relevant to different kinds of audiences. “Whatever we do should appeal to different sets of people in the value chain,” the source told FactorDaily.

Vikram Malhotra, CEO and founder of Abundantia Entertainment, which has produced movies such as Airlift and Baby, said that his company is in conversation with Reliance Jio. “Jio is one of the streaming companies we are talking to for different kinds of content… Internet is the future medium of video consumption and it is a lot more personalised that it was ever before,” he said.

Malhotra said that he is considering a few different formats.

Another source, who heads operations with a large production house, said that his firm is in talks to bring out multi-format comedy content. “Comedy is big in India. It makes sense to partner with Jio. It has a focus on creating and distributing content, something which other telecom operators do not have,” this source said.

Jio is also looking at original content in regional languages as a big driver of consumption. It already offers video in 10 different languages and it plans to extend that diversification to its originals and exclusives.

“Not only does the type of content change, but also the language and kind of devices changes with different sets of audience. Segmentation will play an important role,” said Neha Dharia, analyst with Ovum, a consultancy firm.

Jio’s original push comes barely six months after Amazon launched its first India original – Inside Edge, an episodic drama series on the popular T20 cricket format. That is just one of the 21 originals Amazon has planned for India.

India has more than 300 million smartphone and it is growing. India is also not a one size fits all market. Apart from consumer preferences, the country has different demographics, language preferences and interests. “What will work on a streaming platform is if the company is able to cater to different kind of people with different kinds of content, only then will customers pay,” said Menon.

Many smartphone users have never heard of Amazon Prime, Hotstar or Netflix, but do stream video on Jio. Rahul Kumar, a petrol station attendant in South Delhi’s Alaknanda area, who owns a Karbonn mobile phone, is one of them. “Hum TV kaha dekehenge – jab bhi thoda samay milta hai, Jio dekh lete hai (where will I watch TV – whenever I get time I watch it on Jio),” he said.

At present he is watching a comedy series. What about original content? Kumar is surprised. “Sirf Jio pe dikhega (will it be visible on Jio)?” he asked, adding he would be happy even a small amount for it – about Rs 100 a month.

Jio didn’t respond to a set of questions mailed to them. However, the source close to the company said that Jio’s mission is very different from the rest of the content platforms. “Content is part of the data strategy… for others it’s content play. For Reliance, video is a part of building the ecosystem,” the source said.

The other parts of the ecosystem are education, connected cars, healthcare and different formats of entertainment.

What also matters is Reliance’s deep pockets. “It helps in getting the right partners and the right production houses,” said Ovum’s Dharia. Originals can cost anywhere between Rs 1 crore to Rs 10 crore, depending on the location, cast and length of the series. However, this cost is usually shared between the production house in partner.


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