Epic TV has been one of the few TV channels in India that has been producing TV content at pricey production values, far from the din of large networks like Star and Zee, armed with investments by Mukesh Ambani and Anand Mahindra. And now, IndianTelevision reports, the channel has decided to monetize that content itself. The network has launched EPIC On, its own globally available streaming service, with a monthly pricing of ₹60 in India and $1.99 everywhere else.
The yearly pricing is at par with Amazon Prime Video, at ₹500 (and $20 abroad). The service has over 500 hours of content, the company says, most of it television shows that it has produced and aired on its TV channel. The app was launched without announcement in the middle of August.
One year in the works
This move was hinted last September, when EPIC hired its parent group’s CEO’s son Aditya Pittie to head the channel. Pittie had previously headed a part of the Pittie Group which handled godman-turned-tycoon Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali brand of fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs).
Three months before this, EPIC licensed multiple shows to Netflix globally, and the streaming service had released these shows with subtitles in multiple languages. It’s not clear whether EPIC will choose to pull their titles from Netflix now that they have their own streaming service.
EPIC On was developed by Bangalore-based Saranyu Technologies, which counts Zee’s Ditto TV and music & TVOD provider Hungama as clients.
How EPIC wants to monetize
Pittie said that EPIC would initially monetize with subscription revenue from countries like India, Singapore and Australia, and later from the US and UK. The company also hopes to enter into agreements with mobile carriers for distribution. This probably means that their content will be syndicated over Indian telcos’ own video apps like Vodafone Play, Airtel Wynk, JioCinema, among others.
This is a well-established distribution method in India, and VOD providers like Eros Now, Voot, ALT Balaji, VuClip’s Viu, Hooq, among others are already doing it. EPIC wants a million paying subscribers within a year of EPIC On’s release.
Like ALT Balaji, EPIC On will provide a sample of their shows for free without a paid subscription, along with a catch-up of episodes that were aired in the last seven days. The rest of the catalogue is available to paying subscribers. EPIC’s shows include documentary series like Ekaant, Beyond Bollywood, cooking show Raja, Rasoi Aur Anya Kahaniyan, and Sanrachna; and fictional series like Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, Lootere, Siyaasat, and more. EPIC On also has licensed content like the documentary Tashi and the Monk.
The streamer vs network battle continues
In the US, networks started creating their own paid streaming services like CBS All Access, FX+, and Hulu to compete with Netflix, whose rise they had not anticipated. But long before Netflix reached India’s shores, Indian networks had already been going online, with services like Hotstar, Sony Liv, Ditto TV, and OZee, most of them relying on ad revenue (and there’s not a lot of video ad revenue to go around, as Zee’s Puneet Goenka once pointed out).
Services like Netflix and Amazon have had to rely on a steady diet of films (with deals with superstars setting them back several crores) and mostly offbeat original shows from abroad as networks close off their content to their own streaming services. But since Netflix and Amazon bill themselves as premium services, unlike most network-owned VOD platforms, they have fewer places to look for licensed TV content from India. EPIC TV, was one of those few places, or at least it was for Netflix.
Now, as EPIC has decided to make money online on its own, it seems like Netflix may have to go the Amazon way and double down on original Indian content for serialized Indian TV content.