Hollywood Studio Lionsgate finally entered India last year with its OTT platform, Lionsgate Play. The studio had been shying away from the Indian market as most of global studios, be it Disney or Fox, have had their share of bitter experiences. Even its OTT foray has been rather delayed, with global biggies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already having made deep inroads into the Indian market. However, Rohit Jain, MD, Lionsgate India doesn't quite agree that Lionsgate Play is a late entrant. "The OTT business in India is just two-year-old. Big players such as Peacock, Apple TV and Disney Plus are yet to come in. In fact, 2019 was the first year when the industry reached a level of maturity in terms of subscriber numbers. I believe the market has reached the right kind of maturity for us to come in," says Jain.
A curated Hollywood-only content platform Lionsgate Play is benefiting from the collapse of English linear channels in the new tariff regime, Jain says. "Ever since the NTO (new tariff order) has been announced, English audiences have declined on television and that's an opportunity for us." The reach of English TV channels in the post NTO regime is known to have declined by over 50 per cent. Lionsgate hopes to reach out to 100 million-odd consumers on the back of offering high quality English content. Although Lionsgate's Hollywood content is available to Indian consumers in vernacular languages, Jain says there are no plans of creating Indian original content as of now. He says he is happy doing premium content. "We understand the premium content space well," he says.
Will Hollywood-only content not have limitations in terms of reach? Regional content is gradually becoming a key focus area for the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix too. Jain says that premium audience seeking out for Hollywood content is already 25-30 million. He expects this audience to go up to 50 million over the next couple of years. "Now consumers have started watching OTT content on larger screens; you have smart TVs embedded with OTT services. This will lead to the emergence of the top 40-50 million consumers demanding high quality content like ours."
The digital platform which has a presence in 45 countries under the brand name, STARZ, launched its India operations (Lionsgate Play) by partnering with the telcos in order to reach out to more and more Indian viewers. Vodafone consumers as of now get to watch Lionsgate Play content free. The company plans to launch its B2C pricing in July this year. Jain says that it will be priced in the range of Netflix (Rs 599 per month) and Amazon Prime Video (Rs 129 per month). Apart from launching its own platform pricing, Jain doesn't rule out the possibility of tie-ups with other platforms or even smart TV manufacturers in order to ensure better reach of its content. "We will work with multiple distributors," he says.
Does Lionsgate plan to launch its studio business in India too? Jain says that the Hollywood studio is already in the process of producing Hindi content for various OTT platforms. Producing Bollywood content still seems a while away for Lionsgate India.