The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns have helped OTT platforms make some unprecedented strides in user numbers. It has also helped accelerate the entire content curve, as OTT platforms rush to dish out as much new content as they possibly can. Netflix too is pushing it hard, and is now reportedly in talks with India’s Viacom18 media conglomerate, to source more fresh regional content.
According to a Reuters report, the US streaming giant is in discussion for a multi-year partnership with Viacom 18 for creating new regional content. The deal, if it does end up happening, would help Netflix compete with more established streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime, Disney’s Hotstar, Zee Group’s ZEE5 among others. The deal however, does not seem to be an exclusive one. That would mean even when the deal is finalized, Viacom18 will continue to create shows for other platforms as well.
Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd., owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance group backed TV18, is one of India’s fastest-growing entertainment network. The company is a joint venture of between Reliance’s TV18 and global entertainment giant Viacom Inc with 51% and 49% stakes respectively.
In 2019, these two companies came together to collaborate over three major Indian shows. But this 2020 deal is supposed to be a much bigger version of that deal.
Netflix in April 2020 said that it is looking to make its service competitive in India to attract more viewers and grow its subscriber base. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in December the company planned to invest nearly $400 million during 2019 and 2020 to develop content for Indian viewers. Already Netflix has given huge Indian blockbuster shows like ‘Little Things’, ‘Sacred Games’, ‘she’ among others. Additionally, the company runs several customised plans for Indian audience, including an exclusive mobile-only, $3 monthly plan.
The deal also comes at a time, when Amazon’s Prime Video has been able to score global premiere rights to major Bollywood movie releases during this COVID-19 lockdown phase. The company recently backed rights to 7 Indian movies, including ‘Gulabo Sitabo’, a movie that stars Bollywood’s best such as Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushman Khurana. The deal happened despite extremely vocal protests from India’s top cineplex chains.
According to the report by Reuters, this deal will involve more than 10 Hindi language shows. Some reliance executives are also involved in the deal.