Amazon’s James Farrell Discusses Asia Originals Strategy


James Farrell, Amazon Prime Video’s head of content for the Asia Pacific, took part in a panel at APOS today with Ritesh Sidhwani of Excel Entertainment and Akihiko Okamoto of Yoshimoto Kogyo, two of its key production partners in the region.

India and Japan have been the major areas for Amazon Prime Video’s originals strategy in the region, given the traction of the Prime offering in those markets. Its first original in India, Inside Edge, came from Excel Entertainment, and its most successful Japanese production to date, the comedy show Documental, hails from Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Japan was the first market in Asia to see the launch of Amazon Prime. On the partnership with Yoshimoto Kogyo, Farrell said, “What we always start with is, what do our customers want to see? We knew they wanted to see the variety shows that were not able to be seen on TV or anywhere else. At the same time, the roster of comedians represented by Yoshimoto really wanted to go back in time to the heyday of Japanese variety shows. We played the middleman. The comedians got to do what they wanted to do, the customers knew what they wanted to see. We connected the two.”

Yoshimoto has a 100-plus year heritage in Japan and reps a roster of some 6,000 artists across various disciplines. Okamoto, co-president and COO of Yoshimoto, said the Amazon partnership has allowed its artists more freedom to develop different forms of content and at the same time gives them a global platform.

In India, Excel Entertainment has largely worked in the theatrical film arena. Sidhwani, co-founder and film producer, said working with Amazon was a way to target younger audiences and allow it to develop stories that needed more than a 120-minute movie format to be told effectively.

“When we started looking for partners for original series in India, a lot of people had great ideas,” Farrell said. “When it came to who was going to actually write these shows, who was going to turn the cameras on and make a great program, Ritesh’s team really stepped up.”

Amazon has two more shows from Excel in the works in the next 12 months. It has made ten shows with Yoshimoto and has plans for more.

Sidhwani discussed the collaborative nature of the Amazon partnership, with feedback coming from the U.S. team to help the shows feel more global.

On the pricing of the Prime product in India, $15 for the year, Farrell noted, “India has so much potential and so many customers excited about the Prime bundle. is the fastest growing marketplace in India. So far the investment is just about right, the pricing is just about right. It’s not about servicing just the top 1 percent. We want a lot of people to enjoy the benefits” of a Prime subscription.