It’s 5.30PM on Thursday, 23 August, but the offices of film production house Eros International in Andheri, Mumbai, are buzzing with activity. Meetings are still being held. Calls are being made. Tea is being served. This is unusual in Mumbai, where most office-going people leave their desks at this time to avoid the rush hour. But today isn’t business as usual. Eros is announcing its financial results to the Nasdaq Stock Exchange the following day. It is also gearing up for the launch of its first original episodic show—a comedy called Side Hero—on Eros Now, its digital streaming service.

Eros Now has become the driving force for the company’s digital wing, which has fast emerged as the growth engine of the company, says Eros’ chief financial officer Prem Parameswaran. For the quarter ended June 2018, digital revenues grew 34.3% year-on-year to $26.6 million. This accounted for a whopping 41% of the company’s gross revenue. This digital dominance is a marked departure from the company’s traditional reliance on revenues from movie theatres and television syndication. Over the last year, Eros’ digital revenues have outpaced theatre revenues in three quarters.

Today, Eros Now has a paying subscriber base of 10.1 million users. By the end of the current fiscal, it is looking to reach 16 million paying subscribers. This is an incredible spike from just three years ago when the streaming service had only 100,000 paying subscribers. For context, a December 2017 report from market research company CounterPoint estimated that Netflix has managed to get around 300,000-400,000 paid subscribers in India since its launch in the country in January 2016—almost three years ago.

So, what accounts for this mass adoption? In a meeting, Ali Hussein, Eros Now’s chief operating officer, says that a large percentage of the paid subscribers are coming through partnerships Eros Now has struck with telecom providers. Eros usually does 5 to 9-year deals with telecom operators—including each of India’s four leading telcos, Airtel, Jio, Vodafone, and Idea—each of which ensures a minimum guaranteed payout.

Eros Now is no outlier. Video streaming services are increasingly relying on telecom operators to expand their distribution network and enable users to discover their content. At ALTBalaji, a streaming service run by production house Balaji Telefilms, it’s a similar story. Having only launched in April 2017, it already has 2.1 million paid subscribers. According to its management, about 60-70% of them are through partnerships with operators such as Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and Idea.

Things have been rosy for a while now, but this honeymoon period won’t last forever.


Shashidhar KJ

Shashidhar has been a journalist for over six years and has worked with The Times of India, The Financial Express and MediaNama, his last assignment. He is a fine bloke, and by that, I mean unusually quiet. Over the years, Shashidhar has written on several subjects. Banking, startups and technology, media, and also financial technology. He started his career on the desk at the old lady of Boribunder. At The Ken, Shashidhar works out of Mumbai and writes on telecom and financial technology. What he really wants to talk about though is his vinyl collection.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.