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
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