Reliance Jio seeks edge over Bharti Airtel with OTT bundled plans

Topics Reliance Jio | Bharti Airtel | Jio

Jio is in talks with two big boys of the OTT game -- Netflix and Amazon Prime
Reliance Jio is going for the bundling of its broadband packages with over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Sony Liv, Hotstar, and Voot to woo customers as it prepares to take on arch-rival Bharti Airtel, sources in the know said. 

Customers subscribing to Jio’s broadband plan of Rs 1,299 per month and above will be able to avail of these channels. It is not clear, however, whether the Hotstar deal with Jio will include Disney’s entire premium offering, they said. Airtel, which has also entered into deals with leading OTT players, announced its bundled offerings for fibre broadband a few days before JioFiber’s launch. Sources said Jio was trying to sign an annual deal to use OTT channels to increase stickiness of customers in the market.

Currently, Jio is in talks with two big boys of the OTT game — Netflix and Amazon Prime — besides some others. This was probably the reason why it did not announce the details of bundled channels on Thursday. A Reliance Jio spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.  

Netflix currently charges Rs 650 a month from individuals viewing programmes on TV, while Amazon Prime is available at Rs 999 annually (or Rs 129 per month). And their availability in a bundled offering could be the key for any company to bring premium broadband customers into its fold.

Those in the know said Reliance’s strategy of making investments in content companies with OTT platforms like Viacom 18, Balaji Telefilms, and Eros International had been a major advantage for them to strike deals with OTT players. 

Analysts said the attractiveness of Jio’s broadband plans in relation to its key competitors would depend on what OTT content it would offer in its packages. 

The company has announced that its base tariff of Rs 699 a month will be bundled with JioCinema and JioSaavn, but for a period of three months. It has not specified OTT apps that will be bundled with the Rs 849 per month plan, except saying they will be offered three months of free OTT.

On the other hand, Netflix and Amazon have already signed up with Airtel. A new customer taking Airtel broadband, who also buys the new Airtel Xstream set top box (for OTT and DTH), has to pay over Rs 1,099 a month under the new plans announced a few days ago to be offered Netflix free of cost for three months, while Amazon Prime is available free for the subscribers for 12 months.

They will also get all the other premium OTT channels bundled in the set top box for free which include Zee5, Eros Now, Hungama Play, Ultra, Curiosity Stream, Hoichoi and Hooq.

There are some key differences between the offers of Jio and Airtel. One is that the set top box of Bharti is enabled for direct to home as well as OTT, primarily to woo nearly 16 million of its own DTH customers to upgrade. 

Even new players can subscribe to DTH through the same box through separate plans. Jio, however, has no offering for linear TV for customers and, as some analysts point out, its linkage with 0.1 million cable operators should be leveraged for them to accelerate the roll-out of last-mile connectivity to also offer linear TV, which could be key to the growth of the broadband segment.  

Second, Jio is offering consumers like gaming enthusiasts speeds up to 1 Gbps at the higher end of the market which has not been tapped, while competitor Airtel’s maximum speed promise is pegged at 300 Mbps.

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