SonyLIV plans to introduce original content in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam by February 2023, joining the regional content bandwagon which several streamers have already jumped on to in order to grab eyeballs as competition in the Rs 12,000 crore-plus revenue generating OTT space heats up.
“We are active in Hindi. We’ve done two original shows in Marathi and will launch more. We are launching originals in Tamil in July; Telugu in November; and Malayalam by February. We will subsequently go to the other languages,” Danish Khan, Head of SonyLIV, Sony Entertainment Television and Studio Next, tells Business Today.
This comes despite the streamer’s parent, Sony Pictures Networks India, not having a broadcasting presence in the south. But Khan doesn’t see that as a challenge because OTT platforms enable viewers to discover content across languages, he says, quoting the examples of the popularity of Spanish and Korean shows Money Heist and Squid Games among the Indian viewership.
“For our Hindi originals, 30 per cent of the viewership comes from the five southern states. For south Indian movies – Malayalam and Tamil – 30 per cent of the viewership comes from the north Indian states. People are using dubbing and subtitles to watch content from across languages. As we go along, great stories from all across will be consumed,” he adds.
SonyLIV’s content catalogue consists of original shows, cricket and other sports, live and catch-up TV, exclusive movie acquisitions, Hindi-dubbed south Indian films, licensed Hindi films and gaming. Khan says their focus is only on investing in originals across multiple languages. “The driver of our subscriptions is originals or sports. Catch-up TV and movies are more about engaging the viewers,” he explains.
Its parent firm, meanwhile, again lost the rights bid for the crown jewel of a sporting event – the cricket Indian Premier League (IPL) – which could have brought it a manifold increase in subscriber base like it did in the case of Disney+ Hotstar.
The platform -- best known for Hindi original Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story -- says its subscriber base has grown from 0.8 million to 18.2 million subscribers over the past 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.
SonyLIV’s growth levers are two – southern regions because of the launch of originals and the less-catered to demographics of women and young adults, he says.
“There is hardly any content for age group of 14-20 on OTTs. I haven’t come across family dramas and love stories on OTT. There is a lot of entertainment need gap which OTTs need to fill,” Khan adds.
Khan points out that the width and depth of content and the acceleration of distribution mechanics – be it through telecom bundling, aggregators or super apps – will drive the industry.
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.
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