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SonyLIV partners Lionsgate to strengthen SVOD offering

The focus will be on growing English entertainment content and will start with web series

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MUMBAI: Everyone's going gaga over regional but there is also a section that's watching English content. To ensure this target stays connected, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI)’s digital arm started increasing focus on international premium content around six months back. As the experiment worked out well for the platform, it has taken one more step by inking a strategic partnership with Hollywood giant Lionsgate. Moreover, subscription play is going to be a key focus area going forward. The step has been taken in the direction to build a strong SVOD catalogue by working along with the American entertainment giant.

“The idea of the deal is to strengthen our subscription product even more. What we currently have on our app today is centred around our TV shows, some of our originals and sports and mostly a large set of movies. We are seeing subscription as a growing category. High quality international shows are gradually being available in India, the awareness around the shows have increased significantly and the ability and desire to binge watch in India have also gone up,” SPNI digital business head Uday Sodhi said explaining the rationale of the move.

Although SonyLIV is going to leverage this deal in large-scale, Lionsgate is also benefitting from it as well. “This is a very important milestone for us. We are very happy with the partnership as Sony has a tremendous legacy in India. Fortunately, the partnership came at a time when they were looking to strengthen their English offering. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership. This a very strategic partnership focused on expanding the customer base, creating consumption and creating a fan base and not a syndication thing only,” Lionsgate India managing director Rohit Jain said.

It is working closely with Lionsgate, the latter being one of the largest producers for TV series and movies across the world. An embedded Lionsgate Play destination will be bundled within SonyLIV’s current slate of programming and it will be available as part of its premium product offering.

Sodhi also added that English content genre has seen exponential growth in OTT thanks to a few factors. One is the increasing trend of smart TV usage and another is the easy availability of international shows. In addition to that, the hype in social media during a show launch also helps to create awareness.

However, the initial focus will be on TV series or web series over movies. “At this point of time, what Lionsgate and SonyLIV have thought through is that the TV series space or web-series space is an exciting space to go after. We are more tuned to watch series and are familiar with the entire TV ecosystem. Therefore, we are comfortable there,” Sodhi said.

There will be 500 hours of original content as a result of the partnership on the OTT platform. While the significant majority of the content will be exclusive, some of the content will also be repetitive which is already present on other platforms. IMDB 8.3-rated Power debuts in India on SonyLIV. Critically acclaimed series Sweetbitter and Vida also make way to the platform. Science fictions and thrillers like Con Man and Insomnia will be the part of the catalogue also.

Sports and English content have been the way to attract SVOD consumers still now which has resulted in almost no growth beyond metro cities. However, Sodhi is optimistic that once regional and Hindi premium content is added, consumers from tier II and III cities will also look forward to premium packages.

While two powerhouses in their respective fields are focusing on a new side of their business, time will say how the deal will help them in long run.

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