After leveling up on tech, refurbished SonyLIV goes after paid subscribers

OTT platform SonyLIV relaunched in May with a brand-new user interface and brand identity. The platform has made significant improvement in the smoothness of the user experience and payments by integrating UPI based payments wallets like Google Pay and Paytm.

The entire conversion process for a new user to subscriber takes minutes compared to similar OTT platforms that still only offer limited Debit/Credit card options to users. The new interface also appears eerily similar to Disney+ Hotstar’s own user interface, which may indicate that the platform has changed its cloud services vendor to Amazon Web Services.

The very first promo after the relaunch established that the platform would chase four content pillars – viz. original content, international content, sports and catchup. In the coming two months, SonyLIV will add five new Original shows and three movies to its library.

Apart from catchup content, all SonyLIV content will now be available only to paying users. While the platform is committed to growing the AVOD pie, it appears to be focusing on the SVOD piece to unlock growth in the coming months.

Sampling of indoor entertainment has seen a bump during the lockdown period. In conversation with Adgully, Ashish Golwalkar, Head – Content SET, Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks India, speaks about the transition to new SonyLIV and growing their share of subscribers.

You’ve undergone this relaunch during the lockdown. How has the transition impacted your users?

While I’m not aware of the numbers, I can say that the transition has been smooth.

Will your focus be on retention as sampling of digital content skyrocketed during the lockdown?

SonyLIV always had traction from a large number of users, but largely in AVOD. We’ve had certain numbers of subscribers in SVOD, but are looking at growing them. The idea is not to retain because we are beginning from a small base. We want to grow our subscribers and in the coming months we have a strategy to engage new users and bring them to our platform.

One of the strong points for an OTT player like us is that we have a strong synergy between the AVOD and SVOD play. This gives us a competitive advantage over other OTT players as it helps us onboard and retain new users.

What is the strength of your library and content offering?

In sports, we have an ongoing deal with WWE that will continue to happen. Because of COVID-19, a lot of sports events have been postponed or cancelled, but when they return, you will see them on SonyLIV. Currently, we are the only other OTT platform that offers sports content.

The other content piece affected due to COVID-19 is catchup. All our content on Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and Sony SAB have been well received on digital. There is a loyal following for shows like ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma’ and ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ and our fiction offerings. The catchup play is already strong and will continue to grow.

Barring movies, you will begin to see a lot of our marquee English entertainment content on SonyLIV. We have a library deal with Sony Pictures Television and smaller deals with other players like Lionsgate and NBC. There is a strong mix of exclusive and non-exclusive English marquee shows like ‘Seinfeld’, ‘The Office’, ‘Suits’, which help in attracting users who are fans of these shows.

All our kids’ animation channels are part of our catchup offering. So far, most animation content is catered towards kids and you don’t really have animated series aimed at grown-ups in India. While we don’t have any concrete plans on animation, we will look at any shows that come our way in terms of acquisition or creation.

A year back, we began offering gaming as an experiment to users and the lockdown has only increased the engagement with that offering. Going forward, we are going deeper into gaming and you will see a lot more offerings from us in that area.

What is your content line-up for the coming months?

I can tell you for the next two months, although we have a lot of things lined up for the year. We will be launching five new shows, including ‘Your Honor’, ‘Andekhi’, ‘Avrodh’, ‘Scam 1992’, and ‘Special Operations Team’. There will also be three films starting with ‘Kadhak’. These films may not have scale of Bollywood blockbusters, but they will offer good content for the users to watch.

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