Indian premium video-on-demand service SonyLiv made its first foray outside its home country to launch in the Middle East. In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro ME, Uday Sodhi, Business Head-Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India, tells us about the streaming service’s plans for the region.
Indian premium video-on-demand service SonyLiv made its first foray outside its home country to launch in the Middle East. In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro ME, Uday Sodhi, Business Head-Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India, tells us about the streaming service’s plans for the region
SonyLiv boasts more than 70 popular shows and 1,500 movies (including Hollywood hits) from Sony Pictures India’s content library. It features programming tailor-made for the South Asian diaspora in the region with content in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu with English subtitles. Popular shows part of SonyLiv’s original content library include titles such as The Kapil Sharma Show, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Patiala Babes, Ladies Special, and Super Dancer amongst others.
What is your growth plan for the Middle East?
We’ve currently rolled out SonyLiv in six countries – the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Our objective is to offer a large variety of content for South Asians. We’ve started out with Hindi-language shows and will gradually add linear channels on the service, as well as other language content. We’re still at a very early stage of launch and will evaluate our data to see what kind of consumer traction we get and what kind of content consumers are looking for. Based on our findings, we will expand our service offerings.
Why the Middle East?
The Middle East has a high concentration of South Asians and we’re one of the best providers of tailor-made content for this audience segment. Therefore, we decided to start with this market first. After this, we hope to look at Southeast Asia and Europe.
What did your market research show you?
Our service on YouTube indicated significant consumption of our content in the Middle East from people of South Asian origin. We already have our television channels in the Middle East, and this helped us in terms of a strategy. With over 450m unique mobile subscribers, the Middle East has one of the highest number of YouTube consumers in the world.
We already have several OTT players in this market – have you made a late entry?
There’s always an advantage in coming in late. You learn from all the mistakes that the others have made, and you bring in the best experience for the users. We are well prepared and confident of our positioning in this market.
How is your service different from other streaming platforms?
Our content is not available on any other platform. Shows like Tarak Mehta and Kapil Sharma are unique to our platform. We will also be adding a lot of original content for Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Bengali audiences, and are investing a lot in content catering to different Indian communities. Besides Hindi, we think we will have a significant advantage in multilingual content. We expect more consumption on this front. In fact, each of these local languages are representative of very large language communities, and each of these communities is a business by itself. We want to look at these as independent categories and build content for each of these markets.
Tell us more about your investment plans.
Digital is our priority at Sony Pictures right now and we want to build this business strategically. So we are in an investment phase at present to grow worldwide. We plan to invest in niche markets in terms of content.
Our aim is to create content for global consumption by South Asians. So, for example, if we create content for the Tamil-language speaking audience, then whether they reside in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the US, the UK or India, the same content will work across. What this means for us is that the more markets we manage to get a foothold in, the better our monetisation. Therefore, we will be investing in content that appeals to audiences across India.
Additionally, our platform is going to be ad-free but subscription-based. We think that consumers will be willing to pay subscription for access to high-quality content – especially since the content that we’re bringing in is going to be engaging and entertaining content.
We hear you already have a few original productions in the pipeline?
Yes indeed. We will start rolling out original content sometime in September. Right now, we just want to get the service out there, stabilise all our content and get the service available across the Middle East, establish the price points and partnerships. And once that is done, we’ll start rolling out some flagship content. As for our originals, some of them are ready to be unveiled while a lot of shows are still in the pipeline.
Can you share some figures about your uptake in the Indian market?
In India, we have around 70-80m active monthly users. This makes us the second most popular platform in India. On the Google app store, we crossed the 100m download mark recently, which makes us fall within the top apps within the subcontinent. From that perspective, we’re among the biggest players in India. We intend to bring some big shows to the screen in the coming months, like Amitabh Bachchan’s Kaun Banega Crorepati. Our original slate will span four languages to start with.