Interview: No one does sports the way we do and that’s our story: Uday Sodhi, SonyLIV

Uday Sodhi
SAMMIE

Uday Sodhi, Business Head – Digital, Sony Pictures Networks sheds some light on the growth of Indian OTT market, strategy for original content and much more. 

According to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG),  the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming market in India is set to touch $5 billion by 2023. Recently, on the completion of six years, Sony LIV launched State of Digital Entertainment  2018′ report which estimated that by 2020, India is expected to become the second-largest video-viewing audience globally.

Some key insights from the report reflected that SonyLIV  witnessed a rise of 7X in total time spent on the platform and grew by 3X in terms of MAUs (monthly active users) 2018 compared to the previous year; recording a 3X jump with 100 downloads per minute.

On the sidelines of the report launch, we conversed  with Uday Sodhi, Business Head – Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India to know more about the Indian OTT market and the challenges to build a loyal user base.

It also estimated that by 2023, there will be 40-50 million users paying for SVoD content while 600 million will be engaged on AVoD platforms.

Excerpts: 

While players like Amazon Prime  Video, Netflix and now Hotstar are betting big on ‘originals’, Sony LIV has had a smooth approach towards it. What’s the strategy on that front?

If somebody watches a TV show on digital, he also watches it the first time, he doesn’t repeat it. Now a lot of people are only watching content on digital. No one does sport the way we do. That’s our niche and story. Our big investment goes in getting the FIFA rights. Why is that not considered bigger than originals?

The question is – who are making originals are doing it because they don’t have a good flow of content. They have called it a nice thing and positioned it that ways. We have invested in hundreds and millions of dollars bringing you the best sports in the country which is been our key strategy. It’s Only Hotsar and us who have done it.

You need to decide what and who is your consumer. Our consumer base when we started off, it was focused on Sony’s content more. Serials like CID, etc were male-dominated. Therefore we thought we should make sports as part of our portfolio. In digital sports, probably we are the largest in terms of the content that we do and that’s our strength.

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Yes, originals are something we want to do but why we want to do it? It’s because we want to focus on places, in languages where we don’t have regular content. Today we are uploading original television content up to 16-18 hours a day. There are no too many platforms who have that kind of original television content. So original digital content, original television content is a new terminology which has come in. Original content is original content. 

We have a strong line up of originals this year in languages. We will go the original route to build content.

So, how would you define your content strategy?  

We build on the English category and premium, we will continue to focus on sports and make ourselves one of the best sporting apps of the country. We also will build more user base for sports and a huge amount of TV content, focus on interactivity and gaming through TV content and then we will look at newer languages and create originals.

Why do you create originals? To bring in new users. In a Tamil or Telugu market to expand offerings beyond sports, I have to do original local content. So there has to be a logical reason and strategy behind creating originals. Just because somebody else is doing it doesn’t mean we will do. For us, sports and English and Hindi Entertainment are a very large category. Now we want to introduce language and then language literature.

How was the data sourced for the report?

This is the data that we patch every year. We go through this cycle every year to see how we have performed, to study various consumer segments, what are the audiences, the content consumption pattern and. So when we looked at the day we realized that there is a lot in the data which shows that we are probably in phase 2 of our growth. After 6 years of being in this business, now we are at the stage where we are really seeing a  hockey stick growth in our consumption. Our strategy of focusing on growth, building a huge gaming app and our focus on good quality TV content has paid off. We are also doing a lot of things beyond these with food, short films, etc. It is working for us which is why we are here for the last six years.

Also Read: By 2020 India to be 2nd largest video-viewing audience globally: SonyLIV Report

SVOD vs AVOD, your thoughts? 

SVOD will grow faster than AVOD in the coming years. Which is why we have a premium business model, SVOD and AVOD both. We are focusing on the SVOD business bringing in all these premium content to drive it.

A number of OTT players have tied up with network carriers for content dissemination. And how do you see the consolidation in the OTT space‘ shaping up? Is it the way forward for many players? 

Network carriers, they are still rolling it out. There’s no big impact as such.

Also, there is no room for consolidation at the moment. We are going to see a couple of more platforms coming in. We are going to see at least 5-10 platforms this year.

How difficult or challenging it is to build a loyal user base?

It took us 6 years to do that. It’s a tough task and doesn’t come easy. It takes 30 seconds for people to take install and uninstall an app. For us, to enter and exit an app is becoming easier. There is no entry or exit for a  consumer. Therefore I dont think we need to worry about how many downloads we have. People will come and go. When Kapil Sharma goes live, we get millions of downloads, they will watch it when there is good content. It’s all the power of content that will drive consumption because most of us have fantastic investment in terms of technology. That’s all done. The interesting part now is how easily we can acquire users going forward. We have seen that we have acquired about 3x the number of users than last year, consumption is growing 7x. So it’s a very interesting space to be in.

 


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