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We would rather go deeper in the Indian market than look outside:Uday Sodhi

With over 33 million app downloads, SonyLIV is the first amongst its competition to provide original exclusive premium content. The Video on demand (VOD) service from Sony Pictures Networks recently announced the launch of two original short films – ‘Papa We Love You Too’ and ‘The Gift’. 

Meanwhile, with an aim to dominate online sports viewership, SonyLIV recently rolled out its sports campaign – ‘Jahaan Fan Dikhe Bol Do’, which celebrates the inherent diversity of Indian cricket fans and implores them to spread the word about Indian cricket arriving in a grand way on SonyLIV. The campaign has been conceptualised by Publicis Communications. 

Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head – Digital Business, SonyLIV, commented, “By making India’s international cricket tour available to SonyLIV audiences, we intend to reinforce our credentials as the online destination for fans to enjoy an ultimate cricketing experience. ‘Jahaan Fan Dikhe Bol Do’ fuels the passion that rages within each fan while celebrating this sport. The campaign urges cricket fans to spread the cheer and unite in the rallying cry of superior sporting action.” 

In conversation with Adgully, Uday Sodhi speaks at length about the growth of OTT service in India, getting more original content on SonyLIV, the strategy to grow its sports content, and much more. Excerpts: 

How do you view the growth of the OTT space in India?
The OTT space has become a default destination of entertainment for the youth in India. We are seeing a significant adoption post the 4G launch on all telecom operators across the country starting with metros, where better bandwidth is available, and now also in smaller towns and cities. In an overall view, the OTT segment reaches around 100 million users in India. 

What is SonyLIV’s share of the OTT market in India?
SonyLIV contributes to almost 25-35 per cent of the overall 100 million OTT consumers. 

Apart from cricket and sports, what are the other genres of content that SonyLIV is focussing on? 
When you look at markets growing at such a fast pace, one has to look into what is the first thing that people will quickly adopt, which includes catch-up content, full length movies and sports. One also needs to look into native content that people can connect with. While SonyLIV is heavily invested in catch-up content, we are also looking at what could be the next layer of digital only content, which is why we are experimenting with short format content, short films and original content. We are booking a complete bouquet of entertainment which addresses all the needs and emotions. 

Going forward, as the industry expands, I don’t think the industry will have only one kind of format, but there will be significant diversity in what people consume depending upon their geographies and interests. 

Don’t you think that it is a money guzzler in that case, because you have to keep pumping it with new ideas?
One has to be smart about how the money is invested and how much money one wants to invest in the core offering and cherry offerings. One has to pick, choose and invest wisely and, therefore, we pick the tight team, story and audience. 

What about the audience for international content?
There is an audience for international content, but we don’t want to relate to that audience at this point of time. Our market research shows that 93 per cent of all consumption today is for Hindi and regional content. Some international content experiment may work for other OTT players, but we are not looking at that right now. We would rather dub the content in Tamil or Telugu to go deeper in the Indian market rather than look outside. 

How are you scaling up your regional content?
We are doing the short films in Hindi because a large part of our audience is Hindi speaking. We are currently investing in Marathi and Gujarati content because these markets are now empowered with 4G and they are large markets with minimal digital-only content. 

With the growing competition and new players entering the market, what is SonyLIV doing to strengthen its presence in India?
We will be looking at innovation, contemporary ideas, new formats, new artists, new talents, and up our ante with better content and storytelling. There are many advertisers who are willing to bank on innovative content. 

What works best – the subscription model or the advertising model?
Fundamentally, globally both the models work because we have seen both Netflix and YouTube working well. It’s about having enough faith in the system and being able to execute day in and day out.

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