Indias Yash Raj Films to Launch Streaming Service With $67 Million Initial Investment (EXCLUSIVE)

Leading Indian studio Yash Raj Films (YRF) is to enter India’s burgeoning streaming market, Variety has learned.

YRF’s streaming business (alternatively know as over-the-top or OTT) will be called YRF Entertainment and is being set up with an initial investment of INR5 billion ($67.1 million) Variety understands. It is likely to operate within India, but also address a global market of Indian diaspora consumers in a fashion similar to rivals Zee5 and SonyLIV.

YRF is headed by chairman and MD Aditya Chopra, son of company founder, the late Yash Chopra.

While YRF declined to comment, a trade source familiar with the matter told Variety, “Aditya Chopra wants to contribute towards raising the bar of digital content production in India. He wants to match global standards of vision and storytelling with stories that are rooted in India. These scripts are being homegrown in YRF as we speak. This could be the moment that reshapes the OTT space forever. YRF has huge plans and they will roll out their strategy soon. Wait for some of the biggest announcements ever seen in the digital content space.”

As revealed by Variety, YRF recently signed a licensing deal with Amazon Prime Video for upcoming blockbuster titles from its upcoming slate. These include heist comedy “Bunty Aur Babli 2,” starring Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari; action entertainer “Shamshera,” starring Ranbir Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt; historical action spectacle “Prithviraj,” based on the life of King Prithviraj Chauhan, starring Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Manushi Chhillar and Sonu Sood; and family entertainer with a social message “Jayeshbhai Jordaar,” starring Ranveer Singh.

Amazon is already home to several Yash Raj Films classics including “Darr,” “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” “Silsila,” “Chandni” and “Dil To Pagal Hai” and more recent titles “Thugs of Hindostan,” “War” and “Mardaani.”

The launch of YRF Entertainment will not affect this deal, Variety has been told.

“Aditya Chopra is of the opinion that OTT has the power to showcase truly Indian stories to the world,” the source added. “Being the first and only true blue Indian studio, YRF wants to tell the best stories to global audiences in the most visually grand way possible. Platforms like this are now bridging the language barrier and exposing cultures and talents to the world. Aditya Chopra wants to shift a gear and really scale up the OTT space in India to match international standards. When YRF decides to start something new, it does so at a scale that is unmatched,”

YRF’s investment in its upcoming film slate is understood to be $161 million. In addition, several streaming originals have been developed over the past two years.

YRF is entering the Indian market at a particularly fertile juncture. Some 28 million Indians, up from 10.5 million in 2019, paid for 53 million streaming subscriptions in 2020, leading to a 49% growth in digital subscription revenues, according to the Indian media industry report compiled annually by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and consulting firm EY. The report forecasts annual growth in subscriptions at 25%.

YRF Entertainment will compete with the likes of Disney Plus Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sony LIV, ALTBalaji, ZEE5 and several other entrenched players in the Indian streaming market.

Aditya Chopra also has a Broadway musical version of all-time Bollywood hit “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” in the works.

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