INDIA: JioCinema- a king or a contender in Indian OTT space? Since the pandemic hit the globe, most moviegoers found their source of entertainment on digital screens. At such time streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and many OTTs skyrocketed to amass billions of views resulting in a striking profit off the charts.
However, the time has passed since then, few have been able to maintain their position, some have struggled to glue their subscribers to the digital screens, and some even today continue to lose their users (Netflix talking to you).
Though entertainment giants losing their hold on the audience is another topic to explore, today we’ll talk about the rising behemoth in the OTT space, who has started the journey at a slow pace, but now it appears it aims to rule the digital kingdom.
JioCinema: A rising OTT king?
Inception of JioCinema
Yes! We are talking about JioCinema, which arrived on the digital screens in 2016 through the internet boom brought by Jio, founded by Mukesh Ambani. In its beginning years, the platform was in toddler days exploring the world it has been brought up into.
At that time, it showcased a content library accumulating multiple genres in Indian regional languages (Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, and many more). All this at of free-of-cost, but the only condition required for viewing the content was that the viewer must be a user of Jio.
Jio’s gamechaning decision: Acquires FIFA and IPL rights
Fast-forwarding the time to 2022, JioCinema merged with Viacom18, a partnership between Paramount Global and Network18 Group, a Reliance Industries company. Moving a few months later in the OTT platform’s journey, it made another milestone decision by making it free to all users irrespective of their network providers. This means that any Vi, Airtel, or other user can use the streaming app for free.
In November last year, JioCinema emerged as the FIFA World Cup 2022 broadcaster. It debuted the showcasing of FIFA to the audience in digital space with no charges. However, this “free-of-cost” subscription arrived with users’ complaints about its live streaming of the match. Many criticized that the app choked while showcasing live games.
In the same year, the OTT contender took another foot forward to leave a lasting impression as it acquired the digital streaming rights to the much-loved sports premier league of India, IPL (Indian Premiere League). It bagged the deal by defeating the multiple bidders, which included Disney+ HotStar (earlier digital broadcaster of IPL) as a major contender.
The streaming horse of Reliance, which, in the beginning, slowly started the race, appeared to be preparing for a big win. JioCinema’s IPL rights deal delivered a staggering blow of 4.6 million in subscriber loss to the House of Mouse, as per reports. It also had a record-breaking viewership for streaming TATA IPL.
According to Jio, on Monday (June 29), almost 3.2 crore viewers watched the IPL 2023 final between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings, shattering the previous record of the most concurrent views to a live-streamed event.
Reliance-owned platform marched ahead by acquiring the Women’s Premier League rights in January 2023. JioCinema didn’t stop at this. Following its game of sports, the OTT tentpole now eyed the entertainment field.
Jio arrives in OTT arena with promising team up
In April, the platform teamed up with Warner Bros Discovery to open the gates for HBO, MAX, and some of WB’s original content. This deal landed another blow to Hotstar as it lost the streaming rights of House of the Dragon and many MAX content.
However, the whole WB Discovery content has no space for freebies as it falls under the premium subscription, costing Rs 999 per year. The premium library offers Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, the Harry Potter series, and many more.
Later, Jio Studios announced its plan for 100 movies streamed on JioCinema. This century of entertaining content elevates the library of the streaming platform to a whole new level. Recently, the Bollywood remake of the Tamil film Vikram Vedha also premiered on the platform for free of cost.
The free streaming also includes Varun Dhawan’s Bhediya, Randeep Hooda’s Inspector Avinash (an original series), Radhika Madan’s Kacchey Limbu, Nipun Dharmadhikari’s Me Vasantrao and many more.
The lineup for free viewership includes Shahid Kapoor’s Bloody Daddy, scheduled for June 9, Arshad Warsi’s Asur Season 2, released on June 1, and Vijay Setupathi’s Mumbaikar, which debuted on June 2.
JioCinema will also stream the upcoming season of Salman Khan hosted Bigg Boss. However, whether the show will be free or will cost subscription charges is not confirmed. Besides this, another multitude of upcoming featurettes will be streamed on the OTT giant.
Jio vs Netflix: A tale of OTT dumping
Given the arrival of Mukesh Ambani’s Jio in the digital space, the streaming behemoth has grabbed the two most loved elements by Indians, which are cricket and entertainment. These two factors play a vital role in any business to build its user base easily in the country. However, in JioCinema’s case, it has leapt by announcing its content free of cost.
This strategy will help Ambani build a suitable user base for JioCinema. Given the arrival of premium membership for WB-related content, it is expected that the streaming giant will cost charges for its upcoming lineup, which holds major potential.
Talking about Jio’s rival, Netflix, which became mainstream in India in 2018, now struggles to build its user count in the country. According to reports, the US-based streaming platform lost approximately 2 lakh users in April 2022. The cause of the loss might be attributed to a variety of factors, including high subscription fees and a halt in password sharing.
However, in my opinion, another reason for the loss of subscriber count may be the dumping of mediocre OTT content. The excessive number of series and movies released almost every month kills the interest in streaming.
The OTT content dumping is not the only case with Netflix. Most streaming platforms have been doing the same for a long time.
Underlining the OTT dumping, JioCinema must also remember not to overfeed the viewers with its content. Looking at its latest release Jio has released multiple series and movie, which appears promising, but some offer a mediocre or below-average vibe.
Vijay Setupathi and Vikrant Massey’s Mumbaikar can be considered the latest example of OTT dumping. The Bollywood film is a remake of Lokesh Kanagraj’s Maanagaram (2017). It promises a pure notion of a sluggish screenplay with a misuse of a talented star cast and everything which could possibly go wrong.
So JioCinema has to take a step carefully by balancing the latest release and the quality of its content. If Jio gets the game on point, then it may ascend the throne as a King of OTT platforms in India.