Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), is in the news for its collaboration with ESPN. The network also announced the launch of its two new channels, SONY ESPN and SONY ESPN HD; which will go live on 17 January 2016, thus expanding its sports cluster to four channels - SONY ESPN, SONY ESPN HD, Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD.
While network seems to have an added focus on its sports offering going forward, the money spinner for the channel remains IPL which went through numerous challenges post the eighth season last year.
As the network readies itself for IPL Season 9, NP Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Networks India, shares his thoughts on competing with Star Network when IPL rights come for renewal in 2018, his take on BARC ratings that now include rural markets, focus areas for the network this year and more…….
What is SPN doing to keep IPL within the Group?
It is a process that we have to follow. We understand the property really well. We have brought the brand to this level for the last eight years and that is what we will continue to do in future as well. We will factor all that in when we prepare ourselves for the renewal of IPL rights. I am sure due respect would be given to efforts that have been put by Sony in making IPL a hugely popular brand in India.
What are your thoughts on competing with STAR for IPL rights?
We have always had competition in the market for all rights that we acquired in the past. And we expect our competition to be as aggressive as we are in bidding for all these rights.
What is your take on the BARC ratings that now include rural ratings?
We had launched Sony Pal about a year and a half ago and that channel is doing really well in the rural markets. So between Sony, which is a little bit more urban, and Pal, which is a little bit more rural, Sab which cuts across, we have the entire market covered. That’s how I see it.
The ratings have changed the pecking order in the last couple of weeks ………..
These are early days. We have to wait for everything to settle down and then look at the data. Right now, we should just look at the trend. And the trends are very encouraging.
How will the channel combat the impact of challenges that IPL has seen this year on viewership and ad- revenues?
IPL has continued to grow year over year both in absolute numbers and in ratings. I very strongly feel that this year it will become even bigger. And the challenges will not impact the viewership of the channel. It has not impacted in the past and it will not now.
IPL has become a part of everyone’s annual calendar. People wait for those months of April and May and don’t plan anything around IPL, whether at individual level or at company level. This is why you see a strong growth of viewership for IPL year after year.
What can we expect from Sony in 2016?
We are basically focusing on three things. One is General Entertainment which includes movies in multiple languages, sports and digital. You can expect aggressive investment in all these three. We have been expanding our portfolio of channels in the last two years and you will see that going into the future as well. We will also continue to aggregate the best of the sports rights for our viewers. We will become more aggressive in 2016 as far as original series, original content for Sony Liv is concerned. In addition, we are also acquiring a lot of sports rights for Sony Liv.
We are also going to launch Sony BBC Earth this year, in a few months time. That content will also sit on our digital platform. So, there is a lot of action that you will see on digital as well as the television side.