Number of advertisers up almost 3 fold on y-o-y basis: Uday Sodhi, SPN India

We will continue to look at a larger volume in lower prices in the Indian market, says Sodhi, Business Head-Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Jan 28, 2019 8:41 AM  | 5 min read
uday sodhi

SonyLIV, one of the country’s first OTT platforms, has completed six years in the industry. Over these years, the platform has chartered a gem-strewn path for itself by investing and working towards engaging mobile experience, meaningful partnerships and transformation in payment mechanisms, among others. 

In a candid conversation with exchange4media, Uday Sodhi, Business Head-Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India shares with pride how advertisers are looking at SonyLIV in a big way, and about regional web entertainment target markets, investing in content, infrastructure and more.

Edited excerpts: 
As SonyLIV completes six years in January, how do you look back at the journey so far?

I think I can sum up the journey in three parts. The first breakthrough came when we hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014 on SonyLIV. That’s when we really started seeing some potential in this category. And from then onwards we have invested in a lot of content, both in terms of technology, platforms and platform ops. Also, in creating content for digital, buying sports rights and stuff like that, I think there has been a fair amount of effort that has gone out. The third phase started after the launch of 4G by Jio and Airtel and I think that has given us the hockey-stick growth or the inflection that this industry needed. That has brought in the 350 million-odd users that are there in the market on broadband and are consuming digital video. So the journey comprises of an early stage, the investment phase and now the phase of adapting to the customers. 
Is the English genre on OTT seeing better growth than TV?
English content is becoming a very interesting category for digital because of the ability to sit back and binge. We are seeing an increase in the number of consumers, especially in the Metros, and those who prefer to binge rather than watch weekly episodes. And I think that is the difference digital brings in. You can watch a show as and when you want and it allows you to watch a show during a sustained period. That change in habit is driving consumption on Digital.
Do you think low subscription rates in India are sustainable?
Low subscription rates is a factor of the environment. The subscription pricing on telecom and cable here is also significantly lower than the rest of the world, which is why you can't end up charging very differently for digital media subscriptions. So, I think from that perspective we will continue to look at a larger volume in lower prices in the Indian market.
Tell us about the new show line-up for 2019?
We are currently looking at a very aggressive show line-up.  We have just gone ahead with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ which was launched a few days back. We launched 2 to 3 more English shows just 8 to 10 days back. Then there are three Korean shows scheduled to be launched in January and we also have shows like ‘Victoria’, ‘Good Doctor Season 2’ and ‘Counterpart Season 2’ lined up. 
Would you be looking at tie-ups with broadband players as we go forward?
Yes, we would. I think we have started with that effort. One of the tie-ups we have done recently is with ACT and will continue to look at opportunities to tie up with multiple partners. We also have a very strong partnership with Jio.
In terms of regional web entertainment, what are your priority markets?
There are two big priority markets for us in terms of new language that we want to get into. We want to look at Tamil and Telugu as the new markets and want to bring in content for these two markets. We want to expand our television content offerings in Marathi and Bengali.
What is a bigger play for SonyLIV, original content or VoD?
At present, we are seeing a lot of consumption coming from television VoD. And we believe that going forward the consumption will increase. As a ratio that might change giving the amount of content that we are planning to put up in regional languages in the original format.
What is the growth you’re expecting in terms of subscriptions?
Subscription is probably growing fastest among everything in our system. It's a much smaller pace, so the numbers in terms of growth look very high but that's a focus area for us. We think that with the expansion of sports and the English content in our library, this category will become bigger and bigger.
How are advertisers looking at SonyLIV right now?
So in the last quarter we had little less than 200 advertisers on our platform. They are all the big advertisers in the industry today from the Apples to the Googles, Levers, Marico and Raymond. They are big advertisers across different categories using the platform to reach out to their audiences.  We are reaching out to 50-odd million users every month. Therefore, this becomes a very attractive audience for these brands. The number of advertisers has grown almost 3 times on a year-on-year basis. And that is proof that more and more advertisers are spending their money on digital video.
The roadmap for 2019?
So there are 3 to 4 big things that we believe are going to happen. From an infrastructure perspective, there is going to be a change and an enhancement in infrastructure with fibre reaching home and increase in penetration of Smart TV. We think that the time spent by the consumers is going to increase significantly. We will invest a lot more on the content side and will drive content creation in multiple languages. We will also build a lot of competence on interactive gaming like KBC that we did last year, and will expand that offering to make it bigger and better.


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