28 June 2022 04:52

LEADERSHIP TALK

Karan Johar chats with Amazon leaders at India's very first 'Prime Video Presents' event

Moderator: Karan Johar

Guests:

Jennifer Salke, Head – Amazon Studios
Kelly Day, VP International, Amazon Prime Video
James Farrell – Head of Local Originals, Amazon Studios
Gaurav Gandhi, Country Head, Amazon Prime Video India
Aparna Purohit, Head India Originals, Amazon Prime Video India

Q1. So, Jennifer, Kelly, and James, welcome back to India. Firstly, how does it feel?

Jennifer: It is wonderful to be back in India. We had visited the country in 2018, with plans to come to India 2-3 times a year. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to do so. It is great to be back with you all.

Q2. Jennifer, Gaurav talked about Prime Video’s five-year journey and the many milestones you have had. Now from what we've seen in India, and what you have done globally so far, what sets Amazon Studios apart?

Response:

Jennifer: When we started out, a really important and central philosophy for us was to be the home for talent, one that you can see and feel across the globe. All the incredible shows, all the scenes and all the shows one is going to hear about and the foundation, content on the service, none of it happens without incredible talent and artists who have big imaginations and can execute at the highest level. So being home for talent for us means having the best teams on the ground. In India, we have the very best in Aparna Purohit, who has been able to cultivate that home for talent within regions, to have talent want to be part of the Amazon Prime family and make incredible shows for people to not only enjoy all over India, but all over the world. So, I believe we stand apart in that way and I think it affects our culture, about who we feel like as colleagues and human beings. Amazon is a giant company that feels very small, in so many ways, which I think makes it very special.

Q3. James, I have always been curious about how great storytelling can transcend borders. Tell us is Indian content finding audiences outside Indian shores? Is that truly happening as we speak?

Response:

James: Yes, absolutely. One in five of our customers are watching Indian content and doing so outside of India. For instance, I watched Amazon Original Movie Shershaah in the US, and so did a lot of people I know.

What we need to understand here is why is that happening? Why is it traveling so well? I believe there are so many new people around the world and I think it's because they're pretty entertaining. We're getting all this great content from the US and other countries, devices, a lot of good stuff, but what's missing? what stories aren't being told? What can we do that customers are going to love and might be surprised in new ways and kind of what you would see in these last five years

you're seeing like amazing, innovative stuff, and we're going to see more of what's coming up this year now.

So that's one thing. To put it in differently, let’s talk about a title like it is actually one mic stand. It's a great comedy show here and some of our team in Germany watched that show and they believed that the show would be appreciated by audiences in Germany, and so they are making it in Germany and would be launched in a few months. We have a show in Italy bringing a show on Australian real estate. So not only are shows traveling but ideas are starting to travel the world. It is, therefore, a super exciting time for our shows to start going around the world.

Q4. Aparna, we have seen an incredible width and breadth of genres of all the series you've curated and created. Tell us more about how you personally commission content?

Response:

Aparna: I truly believe that India is a land of storytellers. We have stories in every nook and cranny and this is such an incredible time. It's almost like revitalization, a renaissance of Indian entertainment. And amidst this multitude of stories, to find that one story that can connect and resonate with the audience not just here, but across the world, that's a challenge. We just want to create a home for talent, a community, a safe space where creators feel supported, where they feel that you're willing to invest in them. For us at Prime Video everything begins with a great story. The question that we ask ourselves constantly is why this story? What is so compelling about this story? What is keeping the creators up at night about this story? Is it truly rooted and entrenched in our soil? And I think that's the starting point. We want to, bring to life the vision of our creators, enable them and empower them.

Finally, I would like to say that my team and I, we call ourselves the story chasers. We will go across the length and breadth of a country to find a good story, and really develop them. I also feel that we do not ever dictate. We never let the creator's vision get diluted. So, we believe in casting for the characters. We have been a platform so many new, talented, emerging independent voices. Almost 50% of our releases have new talent and 70% of our upcoming slate has been talent. We believe we are enablers, the storytelling chasers.

Q5. Kelly, in your role of overseeing Prime Video International, it seems you are all incredibly bullish about India. All streaming services say India is an important geography. Now, I'm curious to know where is placed in your mind with your universe?

Response:

Kelly: I believe that the future of global streaming services is really about global expansion and moving much more ambitiously to serving customers in our international markets all over the world. In this regard, India is really leading the way for us. It is one of our fastest growing markets. It represents some of our most engaged consumers. I believe that the success here begins with having such a phenomenal Indian team who have the ability to get into the mind of the local consumer. We try to create an entertainment service that meets the needs of the Indian customer, first and foremost. You have seen some of the incredible announcements of all the things that we are doing, the investments that we are making as well as the new launches and our foray into movie rentals. I think one of the things that is really interesting is that India is truly an innovation hub for us. A great example of that is our Prime Video Mobile Edition (PVME) service. India is the first market where we rolled out a mobile only service for our customers here. PVME has done quite well in the country and we are using that as a launch pad to roll out the mobile edition product in a variety of countries all over the world. Therefore, I really see the opportunity here in India, to continue to innovate, to continue to serve customers, and to continue to learn how we can build on that and expand Prime Video all over the world.

Q6. Jennifer, diversity, equity and inclusion are part of Amazon Studio’s core values. How does this focus translate into action, in the way you are building the slate?

Response:

Jennifer: Well, our hunt for talent is defined by being diverse, and it's supportive of women and voices all over the world. Our leaders, Aparna Purohit, James Farrell, Gaurav Gandhi, Kelly Day, and our whole team, we are always mindful of this, it is part of what we do. It is not about checking boxes. It's really about making sure that we are thinking about our customers globally. And locally, our customers are incredibly diverse. They're incredibly diverse across India. And to do so, how do we reach the talent that can speak to those audiences, as they do not come in a one size checkbox for you to order. They are artists with voices and stories, stories that Aparna and her team are constantly chasing and nurturing as those same stories move on through the pipeline. They are finding those stories and finding the voices, women, and new voices. In fact, almost half of our upcoming content announced today comes from female producers and executive producers and almost 30% of the directors of those projects are all women, which we are incredibly proud of. It is a fire force of passionate women who are out there following Aparna’s lead and chasing stories all over the world. So, it really starts at the top. It's how we live, it's our culture, and it's incredibly meaningful to us and always has been for me personally.

Aparna: I just like to add, I completely echo with everything that Jennifer has said and look at the stage, isn't it absolutely amazing, equal representation. I really believe that and I feel actually really fortunate to be in a company that does not just encourage but value the contribution of women and other diverse groups. And I sincerely believe that diversity, equity and inclusion is not just required, it is essential, it's par for the course really. In fact, I just wanted to share that in March this year, we launched this interesting initiative called Maitri: the Female First Collective, a safe space for women in media, to come together to talk about the challenges, to share their successes, and just hold each other's hand and to unlock the challenges that the new ones are facing and keep the doors open.

Jennifer: Also, I would like to add that many of the producers we have are very prolific producers on our slate and our current slate and the new slate. They are also developing female powerhouses underneath them who have gone on to become executive producers of our shows.

Q7. Kelly, in India, like the rest of the world, entertainment is a highly competitive market, with lots of content available across many, many different services. What would you say makes Prime Video stand out?

Response:

Kelly: I think that the thing that really attracted me to come to Prime Video and take this role is that we have such an incredible opportunity to deliver a really scale, but at the same time, unique and very local experience for our customers all over the world. Here in India, it's really a multi-pronged strategy. First, we're programming in over 10 languages. It has to be a truly locally relevant experience, to make sure that we are really meeting the needs of our customer. Our Indian originals are doing incredibly well with a whole new slate of them being announced today. So, our content is really resonating with our consumers. We have redefined movies. We're doing direct to streaming here in the country in addition to all the licensed titles that we bring in from around the world. I mentioned earlier about the mobile edition product so we are continuing to innovate for a mobile-first consumer, investing in it to make it very easy for people to access Prime Video on whatever device they want. Finally, our live sports offering – that I believe we are uniquely positioned to be able to bring to our customers, in addition to all the great local content, local content that we are producing. Cricket is obviously incredibly well loved here in India and we are excited to be able to deliver cricket to our customers here too. So, we are just at the beginning. Over the next five years, our plan in India is to double the investment that we just made. We consider India to be one of our most strategic markets and we are going to continue investing in a truly differentiated service here.

Q8: Gaurav, you briefed us in your address earlier, on Prime Video’s entry into original movies. Now you made some big movies by launching over 50 movies, you made a big boost by launching over 50 movies directly on the service over the last three years. You also have co-production with Ram Setu, which releases on Diwali, how are you thinking about programming movies?

Response:

Gaurav Gandhi: When we started, we realized that, we all as Indians love movies. They love everything our creators created and one of the challenges we had was the fact that we are an underscreened country. Only 9000 screens are available for 2000 movies that are made every year across languages. We saw the opportunity to fill this whitespace and get more customers to see movies in the early window of a release by entering into licensing agreements with partners such as production houses, amongst others from the film industry. During the pandemic, we were able to expand on this opportunity when movie theaters were shut and we had movies awaiting their theatrical releases. This was the time we entered into further collaborations with filmmakers, etc. and released 58 shows in less than 20 months, across six languages. The customer reach for these movies was phenomenal not only across India, but also across the world. We realized the fact that we can play a very important role in getting the films to the customers. We are taking one step forward there with original films now which we are announcing today, and of course, expanding on co-productions such as Ram Setu, amongst others. With our launch of our movie rental service, I believe it is one more way for customers to consume content besides joining Prime so I think this way we are fueling the creative economy, by playing a role so that everybody can make more movies and content for our customers.

Read 2737 times Last modified on Saturday, 30 April 2022 11:44
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