We might not have the rev­enue from IPL, but the cost is also not there: Ro­hit Gupta

Ro­hit Gupta, Pres­i­dent, Network Sales and In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness, Sony Pictures Net­works In­dia (SPN), talks to IM­PACT about rev­enues, per­for­mance and ad­ver­tiser in­ter­est in SPN’s chan­nels

Impact - - FEATURE -

me­ta­mor­pho­sis over the last one year af­ter BARC started mea­sur­ing ru­ral data, thereby lead­ing to a growth of Free-To-Air (FTA) chan­nels. With Star In­dia pulling the plug on its GEC Life OK and re­vamp­ing it to Star Bharat (an FTA chan­nel with orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming), one won­ders what is SPN’s blue­print? “We will ex­plore orig­i­nal con­tent on Sony Pal some­time in the fu­ture. At this stage, it will be too pre­ma­ture for me to dis­cuss it. Right now, the ar­chive con­tent of SET and SAB has been do­ing ex­tremely well,” says Singh. While it’s work in progress for the GECs, the Hindi movie chan­nels of SPN – Sony Max, Sony Max2, Sony Max HD and Sony Wah – have con­sis­tently been top­ping their cat­e­gory across both the ru­ral and ur­ban mar­kets.

THE ENGLISH DILEMMA

A genre that has taken a hit in the re­vamped BARC uni­verse is niche chan­nels, with the view­er­ship of English lan­guage chan­nels dip­ping. While ac­knowl­edg­ing this fact, Singh main­tains that SPN’s chan­nels PIX and AXN have been lead­ers. Re­flect­ing on the chang­ing viewer con­sump­tion pat­tern, he states, “We have no­ticed a slight shift in con­sump­tion from lin­ear to non-lin­ear, in the English lan­guage. That’s some­thing that we have come to terms with and counter.”

ON AN EX­PAN­SION DRIVE

As part of its ex­pan­sion drive, SPN en­tered the in­fo­tain­ment space through a joint ven­ture with BBC World­wide in March this year, to launch Sony BBC Earth, a pre­mium fac­tual en­ter­tain­ment chan­nel. In a space dom­i­nated by the likes of Dis­cov­ery and Na­tional Geo­graphic, Singh terms the launch as suc­cess­ful, and says due to its strong con­tent, the chan­nel has seen a steady growth in reach and view­er­ship. But, the chal­lenges in the English space pre­vail here too, as the im­pres­sions on in­fo­tain­ment chan­nels, like English en­ter­tain­ment, have been un­der pres­sure. With the

en­trenched play­ers in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in lo­cal con­tent, the chan­nel’s strat­egy is to con­tinue to show­case “top qual­ity con­tent” from the BBC sta­ble, with pos­si­bil­i­ties of lo­cal con­tent in due course.

In April this year, SPN ven­tured into the kids cat­e­gory with Sony Yay. This genre is cor­nered by three dom­i­nant play­ers – Car­toon Network (Turner), Dis­ney, and Nick­elodeon (Vi­a­com18), the com­bined mar­ket-share of which is over 90%. In a cat­e­gory where char­ac­ter love de­ter­mines suc­cess, the ap­proach has been to build affin­ity for orig­i­nal home-grown char­ac­ters and grow reach. SPN has to sur­mount the chal­lenge posed by the three dom­i­nant play­ers, who lever­age the strength of their bou­quet of chan­nels to gar­ner mar­ket-share and get a slice of the un­der-in­dexed ad-pie. Asked whether the network would look at fur­ther seg­men­ta­tion here, Singh says, “Cur­rently, my ob­jec­tive is to first make Sony Yay! a strong brand and then fol­low it up with other op­tions.” It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the youngest chan­nel in the kids genre makes a dent in the mar­ket-share of the en­trenched play­ers and charts its own growth path. As for the HD space, lim­ited view­er­ship has not helped broad­cast­ers who were en­ticed by higher ARPUs ear­lier. Says Singh, “For LePlex HD, it is still early days. The High Def­i­ni­tion seg­ment has lim­ited view­er­ship and within that, LePlex has per­formed de­cently. It could have done bet­ter, but given the lim­i­ta­tions and lack of growth in HD sub­scribers, we have not seen the num­bers grow as much as we would like. ROX HD has also done well. It’s a unique propo­si­tion but has loyal view­er­ship.”

THE DIG­I­TAL PLAY

Com­ing to Dig­i­tal, SPN’s OTT plat­form, Sony Liv, has a lot of catch­ing up to do when com­pared to its peers. As per data from app an­a­lyt­ics firm App An­nie Inc on monthly ac­tive us­age for the first half of the year, Star In­dia’s video stream­ing app Hot­star was at the top spot, fol­lowed by JioTV and JioCinema (from Re­liance

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