Growing traction towards Digital content consumption in the backdrop of improving bandwidth and cheaper data has accelerated the growth of Digital OTT platforms in the country in 2017. Sony Pictures Networks India’s OTT platform – SonyLIV has attained significant growth during the past and UdaySodhi, Head – Digital Business at Sony Pictures Networks India is certainly a driving force behind the phenominal achievement – putting all his expertise in guiding the platform towards next stage of the upward leap.
In the middle of his determined task to make 2018 to be very exciting year for SonyLIV, UdaySodhi shares more information about the platform and his plans for it, in an exclusive interaction with tvnews4u.com:
What are the major achievements of SonyLIV? Numbers, Downloads, active downloads, subscriptions, active subscriptions?
It’s been a great 5 year journey for SonyLIV. We created the category in Indiaand transformed the way content ismade available to the digital audience. With an expected increase in digital consumption of over 500 million mobile users in the next 2 -3 years , the OTT and broadcast industries are creating a wealth of content to appeal to varied audiences. SonyLIV zoomed ahead of its competition and moved to number 3 as per App Annie data for February 2018.SonyLIV is the leader in the original space and has over 85 original shows. We launched the first ever-original show Lovebytes, which was a huge successfully followed by season 2. We’ve experienced high numbers in viewership not only for cricket but also for WWE, football, tennis, UFC and many more. We showcase almost 3,000 – 4,000 live games every year and we are the home of 3000+ hours of football action. We are also bringing to our audience FIFA WC Russia 2018 in 30 days. Some of our most popular shows are Married Women Diaries (S1 – S2), Black Coffee, Lovebytes (S1 – S2), Yolo, KachoPapadPakoPapad and short films like Mukti and The Gift. So besides the standard fare of films and shows, we believe in 360-degree entertainment.
What is the scope of News on OTT platforms? Would it drive subscriptions? Please share your views.
In India, cell phone users were estimated to be 650 million in 2017 and is expected to reach 1 billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020. This rapid up-take of connected devices is influential in media consumption to help drive consumer aggregators for the OTT platforms. News channels are taking the wide approach, where they are associating with digital platforms to widen their viewer outreach and strength brand recall.
What is the rationale behind this alliance with Republic TV for news content on SonyLIV?
With the digital ecosystem ever evolving, we are constantly striving to give our viewers the best in entertainment. Through this association with Republic TV, we are adding a new genre to our already existing content portfolio. We want to provide our viewers the best in news to stay abreast of the latest happenings across the country and the world over.We plan to add 4-5 more news channels shortly.
What is the share of news content on SonyLIV when compared with other genres?
We have just added on Republic TV and we are certain this space will grow rapidly in the coming times. We are big in sports and live TV along with a large bouquet of content across original shows, movies and English entertainment.
Do you have other similar partnership with other News Broadcasters or you have any future plans to do so?
Republic TV is the first English news channel we have brought on board to our platform. Through our digital presence, we want to give our viewers the freedom to consume our content whenever they want, wherever they want, however they want. We look forward to expand this category and have aggressive plans going ahead.
Now that many of your competitors are exploring Premium models in selected areas, do you see any opportunity for SonyLIV to explore paid subscription model?
Yes, we see merit in this with our bouquet of content. We already have premium on our English entertainment, Bollywood and Hollywood movies and LIVE TV. We will explore further in the area of sports as well.
Every OTT Platform is still in heavy investment mode? What’s the way forward for SonyLIV them in terms of ROI?
In keeping with our content expansion drive, we will invest in digital-only shows, regional content and short films and keep innovating on that front. Sports is an important area for us as we endeavour to make the experience of watching sports better and better as we go forward. We are bringing to our audience FIFA WC Russia and we hope to see significant penetration of connected devices and connected TVs and premium end users.
What is the share of OTT platform in Digital advertising pie? Do you think the growing trend of investment From clients and marketers towards Branded content will benefit platforms like yours?
Digital media spends are currently at 15% of the total media pie and are expected to reach 24% by 2020. This is due to increased penetration of high-speed broadband, smartphones and greater volume of exclusive content, which command premium ad rates and sponsorships. Today, the total number of OTT subscribers in the country is already in excess of 170 million. That number will grow 3X in the next few years. So, we are talking about a consumer base which is almost two times what the US market is today. We are already seeing ad dollars shifting to digital medium. A lot of campaigns are being done online and on OTT platforms. The reason behind this is simple; as OTT platforms see increased viewership, the advertising money will follow the customer. What is even more important is that brands are not just content with plain vanilla advertising but are looking at ways they can integrate their products into the storytelling process.
Too many players not good for market; do you foresee any possibilities of consolidation or M&A activity in Indian OTT space?
Consolidation is part of the process and as the OTT space matures it is quite possible to see consolidation of the market. However, the market is still very nascent and there is still a lot of scope for expansion. As mentioned earlier, the number of OTT subscribers is expected to triple in the next few years. So, any consolidation might take some time. We are also seeing players in niche categories entering the space and these are segments with a lot of potential in terms of growth.
What are the immediate challenges before the Digital ecosystem in India?
Few of the challenges are Poor Infrastructure, Piracy, Complex IP and licensing regime, Limited storage on devices, Ad Frauds. Digital measurement is not as evolved so that also poses a challenge.
The OTT segment has seen massive growth because of the fall in data prices. The growth of connectivity resulted in an increase of internet users to 481 million in 2017. Indians use their mobile phones for social communication and entertainment. An average mobile internet user in India spends almost 70% of the time on social media, music and entertainment apps. This shows the importance of new content especially for films and shows on OTT platform. Telecoms are collaborating with OTT providers by bundling services From partners. This helps them diversify by transforming into multiplatform providers due to digital players. Due to this customers will benefit, which will increase digital content consumption and is likely to have a positive impact on the digital sector.