September 19, 2019 / 10:55 AM / 25 days ago

India's Eros Now ties up with Microsoft's Azure platform

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s Eros Now said on Thursday it is tying up with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to host and stream its digital video offerings, in a boost to the U.S. software giant’s push to expand in the Indian market.

FILE PHOTO: The Microsoft sign is shown on top of the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

As part of the tie-up, Microsoft will build an online video platform for the Bollywood production house, which will offer interactive voice search features in multiple Indian regional languages.

“AI and intelligent cloud tools will be the next drivers of the media business and will impact everything from content creation to consumer experience,” Anant Maheshwari, President of Microsoft India said in a press statement

This is one of Microsoft’s first forays into India’s crowded digital video space, so far dominated by market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) that is used by players such as Walt Disney-backed portal Hotstar and Indian movie and video streaming platform ALTBalaji, among others.

Last year, Microsoft tied up with ZEE5, a video-on-demand platform owned by Indian media company Zee Enterprises.

The deal also comes just weeks after Reliance Industries Ltd, led by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, announced it was tying up with Microsoft to build data centers in India that will be hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

Eros, in which Reliance owns a minority stake, is betting big on its online streaming platform.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Eros, which says it has 18.8 million subscribers worldwide, is moving to the Azure platform from AWS.

Indians have begun streaming more online video and audio content after Reliance’s telecom unit Jio began operations in late 2016 with cut-price tariffs that have forced rivals to slash data prices.

“The overall competitive landscape in India amongst cloud providers is heating up, especially between AWS and Microsoft, with Google catching up too,” Naveen Mishra, of tech researcher Gartner told Reuters.

India had the world’s highest average monthly data usage per smartphone, touching 9.8 gigabytes by the end of 2018, according to a June 2019 report by Swedish telecom gearmaker Ericsson.

That surge in online content consumption has driven online video streaming websites like Hotstar and Eros Now to improve services, user experience and use more cloud computing services.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Additional Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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