Be Tech Ready!!
Amazon Prime VideosAppsJio CinemaNetflixStreaming Apps

How JioCinema’s dirt cheap plans can mean trouble for Netflix, Amazon Prime

JioCinema, the famous Indian on-demand video-streaming service, unveiled a new monthly subscription plan, starting at a mere Rs. 29 for the basic tier. The change in pricing strategy is aimed at giving a stronger push to the market-leading service, as it looks to up the ante against competitors like Netflix and Prime Video while aiming to rewrite the story of premium entertainment.

The service, supported by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s wealthiest individual, rolled out two monthly plans: one priced at 89 Indian rupees ($1), offering support for four simultaneous screens, and another at Rs 29, providing access for a single screen.

Besides simultaneous viewing, both tiers offer the same features, like an ad-free experience, along with the option to stream in 4K and download content for offline viewing. With JioCinema Premium, you get access to everything else on the platform, which means a huge library of content from Peacock, HBO, Paramount, and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Last year, JioCinema rolled out an annual premium tier featuring the international catalog for Rs 999. Now, Viacom18, JioCinema’s parent company, is phasing out the old tier. Subscribers who were on the previous plan will be automatically moved to the new one, as per the spokesperson.

Free streaming still available, but with advertisements

You can still stream sports content for free, including the ongoing cricket tournament Indian Premier League, but you’ll have to sit through ads. Just to clarify, the premium tier won’t get rid of ads during live sports broadcasts.

The price change comes after Ambani’s Reliance, which owns most of Viacom18, merged its media business with Disney’s local unit earlier this year. The partnership, estimated at $8.5 billion, is expected to grab 85% of India’s on-demand streaming audience and roughly half of the TV viewership, as per analysts. Disney runs the well-known streaming platform Hotstar in India and Southeast Asia.

JioCinema is going head-to-head with competitors Netflix and Prime Video by offering its new premium tier at just 35 cents, which is a fraction of the cost of their cheapest plans priced at $2.40 and $2.15, respectively, in India.

Two years ago, Reliance and Disney struck a deal to shell out roughly $6 billion for the five-year streaming and broadcasting rights of the Indian Premier League. While Viacom18 intends to maintain the ad-supported streaming of the Indian Premier League for free, they do aim to recoup a significant portion of their investment over the next three years.

“Creating and building an entertainment ecosystem with a product that is made for every Indian household, is not just a business strategy, but a vision to empower our country and users with an unmatched entertainment experience,” said Kiran Mani, CEO of Viacom18 Digital, in a statement. “JioCinema Premium aims to redefine the narrative of premium entertainment for every Indian while building a daily viewing habit.”

Reliance-backed Viacom 18 could buy 60% stake in Disney’s India unit

As per sources cited by WSJ on Thursday, Viacom18, backed by Reliance, has struck a deal to acquire 60% of Disney’s India unit. This move sets the stage for the Indian conglomerate to build a $10 billion media powerhouse in the South Asian market. According to WSJ, the deal, expected to be finalized this month, values Disney’s India unit at $3.9 billion, which is less than half of Disney’s initial expectations. Earlier this week, Reliance chose not to comment on its dealings with Disney.

Viacom18 is a collaboration between Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, Paramount Global, and James Murdoch’s Bodhi Tree Systems. Under the agreement, Disney will retain 40% ownership of its India unit, while Reliance will take a 51% stake and Bodhi Tree will have 9%, according to the report.

Back in 2019, Disney bought up 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets for a whopping $71.3 billion, a deal that got a big boost from adding Star India into the mix. The deal was crucial for Disney’s worldwide streaming ambitions, giving it the broadcast and streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, a range of multilingual TV channels, and a stake in a Bollywood film production company. When Disney acquired it, Star’s Hotstar platform already had around 150 million monthly active users.

Although Hotstar remained the top player in the Indian video streaming scene for a while, its dominance has waned since Reliance-backed Viacom18 gained traction, particularly after snagging the five-year streaming rights for IPL cricket matches for around $3 billion. Disney also shelled out $3 billion for the same five-year rights, but specifically for broadcasting the content on TV.

In the past year, Reliance has attracted numerous top leaders and engineering talent to bolster JioCinema, and has filled the on-demand streaming platform with high-quality content from HBO and NBC.