Digital Streaming Wars in India

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A decade earlier if someone told you that a streaming service would be making their movies and receiving an academy award no less, you would not have believed them. Yet here we are. Last year Roma, Netflix’s originally produced movie earned several awards at the Oscars. The previous years Manchester by the sea, a prime original movie won an Oscar as well. Other examples include House of Cards, The Crown, Marvelous Mrs Maisel and the list goes on. There are critics of this industry disruption as well, but no one can deny the fact that this rapid ride makes for one hell of a story. 

But the main question is who is winning this war? More importantly, are there other prominent players as well? Let’s see how this digital war started and what’s the situation like today in India:

The Big Players


Netflix began as DVD subscription company in 1997 which was a disruption in itself at the time. The only way to get a DVD was to buy or rent from the store. Blockbuster was the leader at the time, a supermart type store with a huge collection of goods. Netflix started mailing the DVD at your home, all you had to do was subscribe. They eventually ventured into building their own streaming platform and in 2012, they entered into the content producing industry, which now has become their source of competitive advantage. Netflix now has 140 million subscribers with a plethora of original shows and movies and is now regarded as a major studio in Hollywood.  

Amazon prime now

We need no introduction to Amazon, do we? Arguably the largest online seller of goods started by Jeff Bezos announced their new venture in 2005. Amazon prime, a paid subscription services for early delivery of goods. In 2014, they started an extension of that, Prime Now, a streaming service for music and video which has now evolved into producing original content. Currently, the service boasts more than 100 million subscribers and have had their content widely lauded. Considering the fact that they entered the market at a later time it is commendable how far the streaming service has come.   


Launched in 2015, Hotstar is a subsidiary of Star India and has fast become one of the most beloved streaming services in the country. In the current streaming wars in India, the surprise package is Hotstar who is currently giving the above-mentioned giants, a run for their money. One of the prime reasons for that is the viewer subscription to various sports events streamed exclusively such as cricket, formula 1 and the premier league. Further, there are two tiers of streaming offered to users – free and subscription-based which requires a monthly payment.

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Current streaming landscape in India

A survey undertaken in 2018 suggests that 45 per cent of the mobile phones in India have some or either one of the streaming apps downloaded on them. Thus, it can be concluded that India is a huge market for the above-mentioned companies. But who is taking the maximum advantage of this market potential? 

It’s Hotstar. Yes, you read that right. Since its launch, it has been crushing competition owing to one thing in particular – Sports. It’s no secret that Indians adore cricket and the emergence of other sports in terms of popularity in the country only goes to prove further that India is a sports-loving nation. Hence, it only makes sense that an online platform that provides exclusive live coverage of sports besides TV itself would be so popular. Besides that, Hotstar’s freemium model is still one of the most appreciated ones in the country.

Although Netflix has had a troubled time here as compared to the rest of the world, the solution to this is seen as producing original content in the country. Around 7 Indian original shows had been commissioned by the company including Sacred Games, Ghoul and Selection Day among others. This strategy might be working too as Netflix subscription can be seen picking up the pace. The same is also true for Amazon prime which has been actively engaged in producing original Indian content. The recently released Prime original Made in Heaven is soaring in popularity. Beside dramatic shows, Amazon prime also hosts a number of comedy specials as well that are proving to be extremely popular.

It is clear that the digital war in India is going beyond the question: Who can provide the cheapest service. Companies are being forced to innovate and it is evident that the online video-on-demand industry is maturing. Even, Hotstar who’s staple has been the daily soaps and live sports, which has made it extremely popular in India, is heavily investing in original content which might be the new way to gain a competitive advantage.  

Prominent upcoming services in India

Apart from the above-mentioned prominent services some other streaming platforms are also gathering momentum in terms of subscription base. These platforms are not just providing a library of movies and shows but are also actively producing original content. 


The brainchild of Ekta Kapoor, it is a subsidiary of the Balaji Telefilms production house providing one of the largest varieties of original content. It is extremely popular owing to cheap prices and a vast number of shows, even though international content is minimal. 


A free subscription service, Voot has a massive library content from Viacom 18 which owns numerous TV channels such as MTV and Colors. Recently, the service has also started producing original content. 

TVF Play 

The YouTube channel known as The Viral Fever started their own streaming platform which gained huge popularity mostly due to the original content produced. The likes of Permanent roommates and Pitchers developed a huge fan base which benefitted the service.

Jio cinema

A free streaming service for the Jio users, Jio Cinema hosts a large array of content with the majority of the content from Disney India. It is fast gaining popularity owing partly to the popularity of Jio itself and the fact that it is completely free.


Hooq provides a plethora of content in terms of Hollywood movies and t shows and also provides rentals of new releases. It boasts one of the lowest subscription prices for its users. 

Eros Now

Primarily known as hosting a wide range of Bollywood movies, tv shows and also original shows lately, Eros now is increasingly setting itself up for a competition to Netflix and Amazon.

Zee 5 

Owned by Zee Entertainment, it provides users with content such as movies, tv shows and live TV in several languages. 


Offers a mixed variety of Asian content, from India series, Bollywood movies and Korean dramas as well.

- Kartik Kukreja

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Digital Streaming Wars in India Digital Streaming Wars in India Reviewed by EMN on April 17, 2019 Rating: 5

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