Amazon Prime Video is paralyzed in India and Amazon won’t talk about it
Amazon Prime Video is now available in India, as well as around 240 other countries and territories. It is launched with 17 original Indian shows, and the app works great on Android and iOS.
All this at less than Rs. 50 per month – or more accurately, Rs. 499 per year – making it probably the best value for money in the country right now, barring JioCinema powered by Reliance Jio , which is free for all Jio users until the end of 2017. JioOnDemand also offers quite an interesting catalog with films such as Star Trek: Into Darkness and John Wick, alongside “indie” productions such as Margarita With a Straw and major commercial films such as Mohenjo Daro and Wazir.
That being said, there are some interesting facts about the launch of Prime Video in India which also tell us a lot about how Amazon sees its audience here. For example, soon after launch, people realized that Prime Video was censoring content in India. At the time, it was thought to be limited to Indian films, but now it seems that the censorship has a much wider scope.
(Also see: Amazon Prime Video censors content in India, and badly)
During the launch of Prime Video in Mumbai, before anyone had a chance to properly explore the service, Gadgets 360 asked Nitesh Kripalani, India’s head of Amazon Video, whether videos shown in India would be censored or not – there had been a few pre-launch leaks suggesting yes it would, although no other reputable online streaming providers did.
Instead of admitting that Amazon censors videos, Kripalani instead said he should check and find out, then get back to us. Since then, we’ve emailed Amazon reps a bunch of questions about Prime Video, but no response has been forthcoming.
The issue in question doesn’t seem like a big deal – after all, the censorship people are talking about is the blurring of private parts. This can sometimes detract from the scene – such as when, on Star World’s Downton Abbey, the breasts of a marble statue in the background of a scene were out of focus, completely taking the focus away from the characters in the foreground . But that doesn’t really affect the story being told, unlike other cuts we’ve seen. A little blurry isn’t a problem, and if you really want to see naked people, well, there’s a whole internet available for you, so that’s okay.
(Also see: Behind the scenes with Indian TV self-censors)
Except that’s not all that’s going on. Discover the duration of episode 4 of The Grand Tour. A normal episode lasts an hour, but this particular episode is only 30 minutes long. It didn’t take long to find out why either – the Grand Tour team often takes things for granted, and in this episode one of the cars being driven is a meat mobile. Characteristics of beef, and you can imagine a team of lawyers reviewing the description and marking it with a highlighter. Half of the episode is cut without explanation, but if you use a VPN to watch the show from any other region, there are no cuts.
In all of this, Amazon’s Kripalani saying he “must check” points to one of a few different things. Or he really doesn’t know – in which case he’s a business-focused leader who has no idea what content his company offers, which is just a bad sign. Or he’s not allowed to talk about it, which means Amazon isn’t interested in engaging honestly with its customers.
(Also see: Amazon Prime Video vs Netflix: comparison of Indian catalogs)
It’s not the only decision made by Amazon that is annoying. You see, the app doesn’t support Chromecast – so if you want to watch the videos you subscribe to, you need to buy an Amazon Fire Stick instead. It’s annoying, but the real problem is that Amazon doesn’t sell the Fire Stick in India yet.
What if you have an imported one? Well, you will see the international catalog, not the local catalog, and thus half of the content will not load due to restrictions, while Indian content cannot be found on this platform.
In fact, Amazon has given this treatment to all non-mobile platforms. In other countries, people with a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One can use their game console to watch their shows and movies on the big screen. Apps are not available for any of these platforms so far. That leaves only the PC, and even that doesn’t match mobile apps. Loading IMDB details and navigating the interface was just functional, and there is no way to download movies to the PC.
As we explained earlier, Amazon isn’t preying on Netflix’s audience. It does wide mass gaming, and that means mobile-focused (it’s the primary and only internet-capable device for many Indians), 2G-capable (with lots of pixelation, but no memory buffer), and above all, safe. He doesn’t want to risk cases where people accuse him of spreading pornography, which happened to Hotstar recently. The I&B department says it isn’t considering censorship, but clearly Amazon doesn’t want to get involved in legal risk for what is essentially a free perk for its e-commerce business.
Unfortunately, that means that if you think of Amazon Prime Video purely as a video-on-demand service, there’s a lot that needs improvement right now, and the company needs to open up and be more transparent about what’s going on. she does as well.
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