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Netflix, Amazon Take Their Rivalry to India. A Lucrative Market

The streaming giants are racing to strike deals for new original shows and movies to entice Indian viewers.

Streaming giants Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report and Amazon's  (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report Prime Video are both pouring money into India, the country which both companies are eyeing for their next 100 million subscribers.

Netflix and Amazon's popularity in India, as elsewhere, however, has to be about content. They need to stream more Indian content for Indians in addition to their roster of American hits.

These two digital platforms have been pulling out all the stops  from slashing prices, adding sports content and providing wide ranging material in local languages as they race for dominance in the world’s biggest untapped digital market.

The two entertainment giants have reportedly signed, separately, deals worth $54 million with a leading production house in India as the battle for eyeballs heats up in one of the world's hottest media markets.

Clean Slate Filmz, credited for making shows and movies like crime drama Pataal Lok and feminist supernatural thriller Bulbbul, will release eight films and digital shows on these platforms over the next 18 months, according to a Bloomberg report.

The studio is known for making edgy content and was founded by female actor Anushka Sharma and her brother Karnesh Sharma in 2013.

The deal comes at a time when subscriptions to online video streaming services around the world have risen due to the pandemic and global box-office revenues have plunged as movie theaters were shut in most parts of the world in compliance with health guidelines issued to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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Right now, a ton of original content -- including many movies that would have once gone to theaters first -- are being released on streaming platforms either at the same time as they debut in theaters or without a theatrical release at all.

Last year, India saw a 51% jump in the number of households with a subscription-based video-on-demand service to roughly 80 million, according to a joint report published by Boston Consulting Group and the Confederation of Indian Industry. 

This number is expected to rise to 100 million in 2022. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that investments in premium and original content are on the upswing. India saw an estimated $600 million to $700 million spent on original content in 2021.

India has a population of 1.4 billion people and plenty of high-speed internet access, which makes it an attractive market for streaming services to break into.

According to Media Partners Asia, the top three streamers in the country were Disney+ Hotstar with 51 million subscribers and Amazon Prime Video at 22.3 million, with Netflix a bit behind with 6.1 million customers.

In December, Netflix aggressively cut its subscription costs in India as it tries to catch up with rivals in a crowded digital entertainment market. 

Netflix is also preparing to stream more mass-market content in collaboration with established Bollywood directors in addition to its roster of American hits like "Stranger Things."