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JioCinema Strikes Content Deal with HBO, Takes Aim at Netflix and Disney in Indian Streaming Market

Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest person, is poised to make a strong entry into the streaming business with his video streaming platform, JioCinema. Industry sources indicate that Ambani's focus will be on competitive pricing and local content following a recent deal with Warner Bros. This move is seen as a direct challenge to industry giants such as Disney and Netflix in the Indian market.

The content deal, announced recently, will bring popular HBO and Warner Bros. series, including well-known titles like Harry Potter and Succession, to the JioCinema platform starting next month. JioCinema, promoted by Ambani's Viacom18, has already garnered attention by offering free streaming of popular IPL cricket matches. While the pricing strategy for JioCinema is still being discussed internally, Ambani has a reputation for disrupting rivals in the price-sensitive Indian market by offering affordable options. In the past, he revolutionized the telecommunications industry by providing free mobile data through his Jio telecom service, which quickly became India's top player. Ambani is now adopting a similar strategy to promote his consumer goods, challenging established brands like Coca-Cola and Nestle.

Viacom18, the broadcast division of Ambani's Reliance Industries, has not yet commented on the matter. The company's shareholders include Paramount Global and Bodhi Tree, a joint venture between James Murdoch and former top Disney executive Uday Shankar.

Industry executives and media analysts believe that the Warner deal will significantly enhance Viacom18's plans to innovate and disrupt the streaming sector, enabling them to attract the premium English-speaking audience in India. The Indian video streaming market is projected to grow annually by 22% to 25% and reach $13 to $15 billion by 2030, according to a report by Indian lobby group CII and the Boston Consulting Group. In contrast, the U.S. market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8.63% and reach $54.66 billion by 2027, according to Statista.

While Netflix and other competitors have succeeded in creating content specifically tailored to the Indian audience, JioCinema currently offers mostly older Hindi and local language movies for free. However, the lack of fresh local and global content poses a challenge for JioCinema, particularly as the IPL season comes to an end next month. JioCinema is reportedly in talks with various production studios to introduce dozens of TV shows and movies in Hindi and other languages on its platform in the coming months, according to a second industry source.

Mihir Shah, vice president at Media Partners Asia, suggests that JioCinema's partnership with Warner is a strategic move to enter the premium subscription segment, catering to a different segment of the Indian audience. However, the success of JioCinema will ultimately depend on the quality and differentiation of its content. Nitesh Kripalani, former country head of Amazon's Prime Video in India, emphasizes the importance of pricing in the value-conscious Indian market, highlighting that media businesses need to convince consumers to pay for content beyond advertising revenue.

Currently, Netflix has approximately 8 million subscribers in India, Amazon has 17 million, and Disney's Hotstar leads with 49 million subscribers. The success of JioCinema will hinge on its ability to deliver high-quality content and execute its strategy effectively.

As Mukesh Ambani's JioCinema sets its sights on the streaming market, the battle for dominance in India's rapidly growing video streaming industry is set to intensify. With a combination of competitive pricing, localized content, and strategic partnerships, Ambani aims to disrupt the market and challenge established players.

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