SonyLIV eyes off-the-shelf subscription buys to grow user base 

SonyLIV eyes off-the-shelf subscription buys to grow user base 

The OTT player is joining the regional content bandwagon to increase its paid subscriber base even as its parent has lost the cricket IPL bid 

The platform, which relaunched in June 2020, says its subscriber base has grown from 0.8 million to 18.2 million subscribers in two years The platform, which relaunched in June 2020, says its subscriber base has grown from 0.8 million to 18.2 million subscribers in two years


SonyLIV is planning to expand the ways in which a viewer can buy a subscription, including from physical stores with high footfalls, as the streaming platform is looking to expand its around five million-strong paying subscriber base with competition heating up in the $1.7-billion Indian OTT industry. 

“Soon, you will be able to buy a subscription off a shelf from a couple of outlets which have high footfalls within the audiences we are looking at. We will be looking at different ways in which a person can subscribe to us like a QR code put in the right place in the right manner like placing it in the airport when a person is waiting,” the streamer’s Head of Marketing Aman Srivastava told Business Today.   

The platform, which relaunched in June 2020, says its subscriber base has grown from 0.8 million to 18.2 million subscribers in two years. Its active paid subscriptions, however, were 4.6 million as of August 2021 – the lowest among the major OTT players, according to Ormax Media. The consulting agency’s findings showed there were 96 million active paid OTT subscriptions in India at the time across 40.7 million paying audiences.  

Sony, meanwhile, has again lost the rights bid for the crown jewel of a sporting event – the cricket Indian Premier League (IPL). IPL could have brought its OTT player SonyLIV manifold increase in subscriber base like it did in the case of Disney+ Hotstar as there is an increasing preference of the Indian viewer to consume cricket via the digital medium, proved by the IPL digital rights getting sold for a higher price than television rights for the 2023-27 cycle. 

Sony had bought the cricket IPL rights for first 10 years for Rs 8,200 crore. Disney+ Hotstar’s parent Star India (Disney since bought over Star’s business globally) clinched the consolidated IPL rights for Rs 16,348 crore for the 2018-2022 cycle. For the next five years, Star India and Reliance Industries-backed Viacom18 have picked up the domestic broadcasting and digital rights for Rs 23,575 crore and Rs 23,758 crore, respectively,  

Srivastava says the platform, best known for Hindi original Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story, will announce Tamil original shows in the coming month and follow it up with originals in Malayalam and Telugu as it expands into smaller cities and towns and regional markets to add subscribers.  

This comes as regional content consumption is on the rise and 12-15 regional OTT players have also come up to cater to this demand among the 40-odd significant OTT apps in the country. By 2025, more than 50 per cent of the total time spent on OTT platforms will be to consume regional content, said a FICCI-EY report. 

“We have sampled content in eight languages. Now the idea is to deepen into these markets. That’s why Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam would be the areas to expand into and reach out to the diaspora of these languages,” says Srivastava. The Tamil originals, for instance, will be marketed to audiences in Malaysia and Singapore, he says. 

“It’s not necessary for me to look only at one language’s diaspora. There is a lot of cross-sampling happening. We will first reach out to these two diasporas across all the markets we are available in.” Besides, he adds, SonyLIV plans to launch dubbed versions of the Tamil originals in multiple languages as well because consumption of dubbed content has taken off in a big way. 

Meanwhile, regional players like Telugu OTT platform aha and Gujarati peer OHO are also experimenting with branded content collaborations, syndication of original content dubbed into other languages and offering subscriptions through retail channels to shore up their revenues. OHO had told Business Today that it was planning to woo the Gujarati diaspora through in-person community outreach programmes. 

The Indian OTT industry’s revenue was $1.7 billion (Rs 12,750 crore) with SonyLIV accounting for around $60 million (Rs 450 crore), according to Elara Capital’s report in April 2022. Currently, a little less than half (44 per cent) of SonyLIV’s revenue comes from its SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) user base. 

SonyLIV is in the midst of a proposed merger with ZEE5 as part of a larger merger between two media behemoths of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. (ZEEL) in what is one of the largest in the media and entertainment space. The merged SonyLiv-ZEE5 OTT entity will see Sony bringing sports to the table and Zee contribute its regional programming.