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Amazon Prime Video Web Series Tandav Asked to Be Banned for Disrespecting Hindu Deities

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 18 January 2021

Taking cognisance of complaints that Hindu gods and goddesses have been ridiculed in web series Tandav, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Sunday sought an explanation from streaming platform Amazon Prime Video on the issue, sources said.

The development came after BJP MP Manoj Kotak on Sunday said he has written to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking a ban on Amazon Prime Video’s series Tandav for ridiculing Hindu deities.

Tandav, starring actors Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Sunil Grover, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Dino Morea, Kumud Mishra, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Gauhar Khan, and Kritika Kamra, premiered on the streaming platform on Friday.

Filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar has created, directed and produced the political drama with Himanshu Kishan Mehra and it is written by Gaurav Solanki, best known for Article 15.

“The ministry has taken cognizance of the matter (complaints) and asked Amazon Prime Video to explain,” a source in the ministry said.

Kotak, the MP from Mumbai North-East, alleged that attempts are often made on such platforms to not show Hindu deities in good light.

He said different organisations and individuals have complained that Hindu gods and goddesses have been ridiculed in Tandav web series.

“Hence, we have made a demand to Javadekar ji and have written to him to ban the web series immediately. The actors, producers and directors should apologise for hurting sentiments,” he added.

Sharing the picture of his letter to Javadekar on Twitter, Kotak said as there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content and films on such platforms are full of sex, violence, drugs, abuse, hate, and vulgarity.

“Sometimes, they also hurt religious sentiments,” he added.

It seems that makers of Tandav have deliberately mocked Hindu gods and disrespected Hindu religious sentiments, he said in the letter dated January 16.

Another politician, Ram Kadam, a BJP MLA from Ghatkopar West, also asked the director to remove the portion of the web series in which Lord Shiva is allegedly ridiculed.

The legislator said he has filed a complaint in this connection at the suburban Ghatkopar police station.

When contacted about the complaints, Amazon Prime Video PR said the platform “won”t be responding” on the matter.

The government recently brought OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ Hotstar, besides other online news and current affairs content, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, giving it powers to regulate policies and rules for the digital space.

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Squid Game Craze Lifts Netflix Quarter With Over 4 Million New Subscribers

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By Reuters | Updated: 20 October 2021

Netflix’s global sensation Squid Game helped lure more new customers than expected, the world’s largest streaming service said on Tuesday as it predicted a packed lineup would further boost signups through the end of the year.

After a sharp slowdown in the first half of 2021, Netflix added 4.38 million subscribers from July through September to reach 213.6 million worldwide. Wall Street analysts had projected 3.86 million additions, according to Refinitiv data.

Netflix enjoyed a subscriber boom last year as COVID-19 kept audiences at home, but growth stalled early this year. At the same time, Walt Disney’s Disney+, AT&T’s HBO Max, and other competitors bolstered their offerings. Netflix blamed the earlier weakness in part on a thin slate of new programming caused by production shutdowns from the pandemic.

Then, South Korean drama Squid Game debuted on September 17 and surprised executives by becoming the streaming service’s most-watched original series in its first month. On Tuesday, Netflix said a “mind-boggling” 142 million households had watched the dark drama about people who compete in a deadly competition to erase financial debt.

The series, made with a relatively small budget, shot to the top of Netflix viewing charts in 94 countries, kick-started sales of track suits and Vans sneakers, and kindled interest in learning Korean, Squid Game merchandise is now on its way to retailers, Netflix said.

The fervour around Squid Game also is expected to lift the current quarter. Netflix projected it will pick up 8.5 million new customers by year’s end, ahead of industry forecasts of 8.33 million, as it releases a heavy lineup of new programming. Upcoming debuts include big-budget action flick Red Notice and a second season of fantasy drama The Witcher.

It also expects a more normalised programming slate in 2022 spread throughout the year, “assuming no new COVID waves or unforeseen events,” the company said in a quarterly letter to shareholders.

Shares of Netflix were close to even in after-hours trading at $641 (roughly Rs. 48,130) following the earnings report.

Overseas growth

Most new customer pickups in the quarter came from the Asia Pacific market, where Netflix now has 30 million subscribers. Industry experts believe the region may rival the United States and Canada – Netflix’s largest market – in three to five years, said Third Bridge senior analyst Joe McCormack.

Netflix is trying new ways to attract customers overseas, including offering a free plan in Kenya. It will take one to two years to tell if that tactic leads to more paying subscribers, the company said.

For the quarter that ended in September, diluted earnings-per-share came in at $3.19 (roughly Rs. 240), beating analyst expectations of $2.57 (roughly Rs. 190). Revenue rose 16 percent to $7.5 billion (roughly Rs. 56,325 crores).

Before the earnings report, Netflix shares had risen roughly 22 percent this year and were trading near record highs, but their gains lag behind the 54 percent increase in the Nasdaq.

Netflix, which keeps much of its viewership data secret, also said it will release information more frequently and shift its main publicly reported metric to hours viewed, rather than the number of accounts that watched a title for at least 2 minutes. The company noted that it competes with a large set of activities beyond TV including TikTok and Fortnite. When Facebook suffered a global outage in early October, “our engagement saw a 14 percent increase during this time period,” Netflix said.

Executives did not address worker complaints about a Dave Chappelle comedy special, which the company has previously defended. Some employees say Chappelle made comments that harmful to transgender people, and they plan a walkout on Wednesday.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Squid Game, Netflix’s Biggest Hit, Estimated to Be Worth About $900 Million: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 18 October 2021

Squid Game, Netflix’s biggest original series launch, is estimated to be worth almost $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,770 crores) for the streaming giant, as per a report citing figures from an internal Netflix document.

The nine-episode thriller, in which cash-strapped contestants play childhood games with deadly consequences in a bid to win KRW 45.6 billion (roughly Rs. 290 crores), became an international hit after it launched last month.

In comparison to its estimated net worth, the showcost just $21.4 million (roughly Rs. 160 crores) to produce, Bloomberg said.

According to the report, about 132 million had watched at least two minutes of the show in its first 23 days, easily breaking the record set by UK costume drama Bridgerton, which was streamed by 82 million accounts in its first 28 days.

Netflix had earlier announced the show had amassed 111 million fans, but Bloomberg said those figures were based on slightly older data.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix estimated that 89 percent of people who started the show watched more than one episode, the news agency said, and 66 percent of the viewers finished watching the series in the first 23 days.

Netflix declined to comment on the report. An attorney for the company told Bloomberg that it would be inappropriate for Bloomberg to disclose the confidential data contained in the documents that it had reviewed.

The series is also the first Korean drama to snatch the top spot on Netflix in the United States, and has even spurred interest among people in learning Korean.

In China, where Netflix is unavailable without a VPN, a Beijing bakery has introduced a Squid Game-themed confection-making challenge in its store.

The show has even drawn positive comments from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with the billionaire calling the work “impressive and inspiring.” Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video competes with Netflix.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Prime Video Channels Bundling Service Launched by Amazon for Video Streaming Apps in India

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 September 2021

Amazon launched in India on Friday a bundling option on its video platform for global and local streaming services, in a move aimed at boosting subscriptions.

The launch comes at a time of increasing competition from global and domestic rivals in an important market for the US tech company.

The Amazon Channels service will help customers using its Prime flagship loyalty programme to subscribe to multiple streaming apps on a single interface, Gaurav Gandhi, the head of Amazon Prime Video in India, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the launch.

“We believe besides solving customer problems… multiple apps, multiple log ins… it also solves a lot for our partners where they are able to get the benefit of Prime Video’s reach and ubiquitous distribution,” said Gandhi.

The service is launching with streaming apps from partners including Discovery, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Mubi, said Gandhi, adding that India is the 12th country where it is being launched.

Gandhi declined to talk about specifics of revenue sharing with content partners or discuss other financial parameters of the service.

Amazon’s Prime loyalty programme, which costs an annual Rs. 999 in India, offers customers free delivery, early access to deals during sales, and free music and video streaming.

India, the world’s second-most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, is a vital growth market for Amazon and its global rivals Netflix and Walt Disney.

Prime Video’s rival Disney+ Hotstar hosts Bollywood movies, TV shows and live streams India’s popular cricket league matches, while Netflix has bet big on local original content. An announced merger of India’s Zee and a local unit of Japan’s Sony is also set to create a TV powerhouse that will challenge Prime Video and others in the market.

Amazon has invested heavily in acquiring and producing local content in India and its founder Jeff Bezos said last year that Prime Video was doing well globally “but nowhere it’s doing better than India”. Amazon does not break out user numbers by country.

But India has also proven to be a political minefield for Amazon where it was forced to issue a rare apology earlier this year for some scenes in an original drama series, which allegedly hurt Hindu religious beliefs.

“We learn from experiences and we work on,” Gandhi said when asked if Amazon Prime Video had become more careful in selecting and hosting content after the controversy.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Disney to Move Hotstar Content to Hulu, ESPN+ in US as Part of Disney Bundle

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By Reuters | Updated: 1 September 2021

Walt Disney said on Tuesday that content from its streaming service Hotstar — home to India’s IPL cricket tournament and original shows like Aarya — will migrate to its ESPN+ and Hulu streaming platforms in the United States.

Disney, which has 174 million paying customers across its four streaming services, is looking to slowly consolidate its content into a Disney Bundle, which includes ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+, and more than 100,000 movies, TV episodes as well as sports events.

Sports content from Hotstar will move to ESPN+, and Hotstar movies as well as TV shows will migrate to Hulu, which is home to series like The Handmaid’s Tale.

A Hotstar annual subscription costs $49.99 (roughly Rs. 3,650) per year, while the Disney Bundle, which starts at $13.99 (roughly Rs. 1,020) per month, will cost subscribers at least $167.88 (roughly Rs. 12,260) for a year.

Hotstar users in the US will receive a redemption code to avail an offer to shift their subscriptions to the entire Disney bundle, at no cost.

IPL comes to ESPN+

Hotstar is popular in India as it streams Bollywood movies, local TV shows, and cricket tournaments.

In the first half of 2021, the Hotstar mobile app had only about 0.04 percent market share of installs among the top 100 streaming services in the US, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. In cricket-crazy India, however, it had a 29 percent market share of all new downloads among the top 100 mobile streaming video on demand apps.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), which has an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion (roughly Rs. 49,660 crores), is the richest Twenty20 league and attracts many of the best players from around the world.

The league’s fourteenth season was suspended on May 4 with 31 matches left to play after several players and backroom staff tested positive for COVID-19 amid a devastating second wave of infections in India.

The remaining matches will stream on ESPN+ in the US when the tournament resumes from September 19.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Netflix Sets TUDUM, Its First Virtual Global Fan Event, for September 25; to Feature Over 70 Titles

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By ANI | Updated: 26 August 2021

Netflix on Wednesday announced that it will be hosting its first-ever global fan event in September, titled TUDUM after the familiar sound that all viewers of the streaming platform first hear when they watch a show or movie.

The fan event will take place virtually on September 25 and will feature the biggest stars and creators from various Netflix projects, representing over 70 series, films and specials.

Netflix has stated that the goal of TUDUM will be “to entertain and honour Netflix fans from across the globe.” The three-hour virtual live stream will kick off at 9:30pm IST/ 9am PST / 12pm EST / 4pm GMT / 1am JST and KST and will be broadcasted across Netflix’s YouTube channels worldwide, in addition to Twitter and Twitch.

Pre-shows spotlighting Korean and Indian series and films, along with anime content will also take place at 5:30pm IST/ 5am PST / 8am EST / 12pm GMT / 9pm JST and KST on specific channels.

Over 70 films and series will be featured throughout the three-hour TUDUM event, including some of the most popular returning seasons on the platform like Stranger Things, Bridgerton and The Witcher, to Money Heist and Cobra Kai, as well as blockbuster films like Red Notice, Don’t Look Up, Extraction, The Harder They Fall, The Old Guard, and more.

The complete list of Netflix TV shows and movies to be featured are as follows:

Aggretsuko: Season 4
A Whisker Away
A Traves De Mi Ventana
Arcane
Army of Thieves
Black Crab
Big Mouth
Bridgerton
Bright: Samurai Soul
Bruised
The Chestnut Man
Cobra Kai
Colin in Black and White
Cowboy Bebop
The Crown
De Volta Aos 15
Don't Look Up
Emily in Paris
Extraction
Finding Anamika
Floor is Lava
The Harder They Fall
Hellbound
Heeramandi
Human Resources
Interceptor
Inside Job
The Old Guard
Oscuro Deseo
Ozark
Maldivas
Money Heist
My Name
The New World
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie
Rebelde
Ritmo Salvaje
Red Notice
The Sandman
Sex Education
The Silent Sea
Soy Georgina
Stranger Things
Super Crooks
Ultraman: Season 2
The Umbrella Academy
Vikings: Valhalla
The Witcher
The Witcher: Blood Origin
Young, Famous and African

Fans will get to experience breaking news, the premiere of trailers, exclusive clips during some of the interactive panels, and conversations with the creators and stars from Netflix. Those who are interested in hosting a co-stream can even sign-up at TUDUM.com to react on their personal Facebook, Twitch, or YouTube channels.

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South Park Creators Sign Mega Movie Deal With Paramount+ Streaming Service

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 6 August 2021

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone signed a massive deal Thursday to make 14 movies of their enduring satirical cartoon for streaming service Paramount+, as Hollywood’s frenzied scramble for online content accelerates.

While MTV Entertainment Studios – which like Paramount+ is owned by parent corporation ViacomCBS – did not release any financial figures, Bloomberg News put the deal at $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,675 crores), which would make it one of the largest in television history.

The Paramount+ streaming platform launched in March in the US in a bid to compete in a crowded and content-hungry marketplace led by the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime.

In a statement, MTV Entertainment’s Chris McCarthy said developing new content with “tremendous talent like Matt and Trey, is at the heart of our strategy to continue growing Paramount+.”

The deal also includes multiple new series of South Park for television network Comedy Central, which will see the long-running satire reach its 30th year by 2027.

South Park, set in small-town America and known for crude language and lampooning hot-button social issues since 1997, has already spawned one film, multiple video games, and other merchandise.

“Comedy Central has been our home for 25 years and we’re really happy that they’ve made a commitment to us for the next 75 years,” said Parker and Stone in the joint statement.

“We can’t wait to get back to doing traditional South Park episodes but now we can also try out new formats,” they added.

While ViacomCBS did not immediately comment on the $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,675 crores) figure, it would put the deal on a par with Reese Witherspoon’s sale of her Hello Sunshine company to a new private equity-backed media venture this week.

It also comes after Amazon in May agreed to buy MGM studios for $8.45 billion (roughly Rs. 61,500 crores).

Other streaming platforms recently launched by major media and tech companies to join the so-called “streaming wars” include HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+, each seeking vast content libraries to attract and retain subscribers.

ViacomCBS said Wednesday that it had reached 42 million streaming subscribers. Current market leader Netflix has more than 200 million.

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