Content + Marketing + Analytics - The synergistic loop driving SonyLIV’s strategy

SonyLIV has a newly appointed leadership team under Danish Khan, Head – Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks India. The team comprises of Ashish Golwalkar, SonyLIV as Head – Content, SET & Digital Business, Aman Srivastava, SonyLIV as Head – Marketing, Digital Business and Amogh Dusad, Head – Programming and New Initiatives, Digital Business who will handle Strategic Planning, Operations, Viewership Management and Analytics for SonyLIV.

In conversation with Adgully, Ashish Golwalkar, Aman Srivastava and Amogh Dusad speak about the future plans for SonyLIV and the fast evolving OTT landscape in India.

Coming into the digital side of the business from Television, what do you anticipate are going to be the challenges?

Aman Srivastava: Working on digital side as a platform and medium is not new for us. We always used to look at consumers and that platform was an integral part of what we wanted to create. The challenge now is going to be getting people to be on the same medium. It was a movement towards television as a platform per say. The consumer remains the same, now we just have to give him a different experience on a different medium. For me, it is the same person, I just need to take him to a different destination. That’s it.

Ashish Golwalkar: The reason why I and Aman are moving from the Television to digital medium is that, all said and done, the television medium today has the maximum reach, which any of the digital platforms can’t boast of. In terms of original content, TV is probably more than all the digital platforms put together. So, the viewership on digital is actually coming from the TV content or catchup content. At SonyLIV, in a way that is good because we have properties that have very good traction. The question is how do we navigate those viewers who come for catchup into the drivers for the premium content that we are going to create.

All the TV networks are suited for creating something big, provided there are suitable investments made in the original content. In my opinion, there has to be a synergy in what we are offering as original content for our viewers to kind of go for it. That’s why we are poised much better than the digital only platforms.

What are the individual responsibilities of each of the members?

Ashish Golwalkar: The serious play in digital OTT is only 5 years old.  The team and structures are still evolving and I think we are still figuring out how to create the best synergy. Content is something that I’m going to take care of. Aman, of course, will take care of marketing. Amogh has the most challenging job.

Amogh Dusad: The key part of my responsibility is to own the entire content and consumer interaction on the app. The idea is that the consumer goes through a journey on the platform. You create some pieces of content and take the awareness down to the consumers. Make a compelling communication so they want to come. The journey within the app has to fall in line with our overall strategy. Obviously, a business gets driven on the basis of how a consumer comes in, we are a freemium platform with a strong AVOD play, there is a very big focus on the SVOD play and the content behind the paywall. The series of initiatives that get unfolded now will build towards that business strategy. We are working on second screen interactivity; we are also building first screen interactivity. We are also envisaging ways to customise our gaming portfolio for our AVOD and SVOD users. There are a series of things that will come out as individual announcements, but I think they will all emerge out of the broad blueprint that we’ve put together for the business.

Aman Srivastava: For me, the challenge is to get the user to the platform. There is also an experience which this platform can provide as a gateway outside of the product itself. For example, for a first-time user, the challenge is content, but for an evolved user, how do I ensure that the person lives with the philosophy of the brand outside of the product as well? That is something we will explore and see how we can do it better.

Amogh Dusad: I think in this entire journey it is important to be close to the consumer in terms of insights and analytics. Every time a user is on the journey, there is some information that we are picking up along the way, because it is digital. It helps us put together a much better experience on the app, because what we are aiming to do is get a highly engaged SonyLIV user. That user becomes our brand ambassador, talking about the experience on the app, the content on the app, the ease of content discovery for him and how easilyhe was able to transact and interact with the app. Consumer insights and analytics will get a lot of centerstage in terms of our decision making.

Could you tell us about some of the latest developments in SonyLIV?

Ashish Golwalkar: It is just the beginning. Of course, Danish is leading the entire piece. I remember 5 years ago in the journey at Sony Entertainment Television, where the same 4-5 people were sitting here. What we are doing here is, as Danish says, playing total football. Which means that roles are blurred, while I might be driving content, Amogh may have an interesting insight that we all feel has to be done. Similarly, I can contribute to marketing for shows.

We are in a hypercompetitive market and there are massive investments being committed by some of the biggies internationally, who are in India now. We have to be a formidable player in our niche. We are setting up the basics, the content plan and the strategy around the original content, which is a driver of subscription revenue. Until we’ve figured out concrete steps to do that, it will be premature to comment on it. In a couple of months, we will be here with many big announcements.

Amogh Dusad: A lot has been happening on the platform since 2017. That was the first year we held KBC Play Along, where we had our content partnership with Lionsgate. Thus, there is a lot of continuity, but also a step change. That change involves tremendous amount of work in all dimensions. Live sports this year was taken behind the paywall. That journey will continue next year, where we have great content like UEFA and Olympics coming in. Whenever, India travels out of the country, we are the ones streaming it.

There is tremendous amount of traction on the app, we have anywhere between 60 million and 80 million monthly active users (MAUs), so in that sense, it is business as usual.

With new players like Disney+ coming in, how will it impact the OTT ecosystem in India?

Amogh Dusad: It is too early in the journey of OTT to pass a definitive point of view in terms of what exactly is happening. This industry is a focus for all big businesses, not only in India but internationally. NBC, HBO all of them are looking for a direct to consumer play. One will see that action continue to happen, and players will try to innovate, form collaborations, to have them work for their business and consumers. We are in an ongoing partnership with TVF, who is also into OTT streaming with their own app. Different players will adopt different approach. While everyone is adopting their own play, what will be critical is your original offering. From a consumer proposition point of view, what do you bring to the table?  It is an exclusive. I think with a strong line-up, the original pipeline which is in the making, and the premium television shows like ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’, ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘Indian Idol’, etc., give us the advantage in the market of bringing them exclusively out on the app, for which SonyLIV becomes indispensable to the users’ list of apps.

With the streaming wars driving up cost of content, what is going to be the scenario going forward? Are you looking at content solutions to drive down such costs?

Ashish Golwalkar: This was exactly the scenario when we started the television journey. At that time, Sony was No. 6 and now we are No.1 most part of the year. What we’ve done – and I’m sure are going to continue doing – is right cost it. We are not going to get into the rat race of big names and bigger monies. If there is an idea that demands certain kinds of investments, we will do it. Not just us, but everyone will come to that. If there is a project that needs investments, we will invest. However, there are certain content which are big in idea itself and don’t really need big faces to go with it. We are open to ideas and have the ability to invest in big idea, so we will not shy away from that.


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