More channels, regional acquisitions on Sony’s India menu
Other | Photo Credit: Reuters

Having identified India as a major market for growth for its television broadcast business, Sony is seeking to tap diverse regions of the country by expanding its offerings with a variety of contents and is evaluating acquisition of some regional channels.

The company's arm Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), formerly Multi Screen Media, which yesterday announced launch of two sports channels in partnership with ESPN, plans to add two more, besides widening digital content as the parent backs new investments in the country.

"Sony is very strongly committed to not just India but Sony Pictures Networks India as well. We, therefore have been very aggressively expanding in the last few years and that expansion has been in terms of expanding our channel portfolio, and making aggressive investments in our content portfolio," SPN CEO NP Singh told PTI.

He further said: "As far as our channel portfolio is concerned, in the last two years, we have moved from having 11 channels to 18 channels. That in itself is an indicator of the potential that we see in this market and the support that we get from our parent to grow in this market." 

Stating that Sony Corp has already announced that "India is a growth market" and will therefore attract a lot of support from it, Singh said the idea would be to find ways to address the diverse market in the country.

"One size fits all does not apply in this market. We are such a diverse market, you have to start looking at segmentation of the market and with that intent we had launched Sony Pal in 2014," Singh said, adding the channel has gained a lot of traction with the rural viewers.

When asked about plans for regional markets, he said: "We have the intent to get into some selected regional markets as well. That process of evaluation is on and therefore I can't talk too much in detail about that but we will look at opportunities of getting into select markets either organically or inorganically." 

While admitting that the South Indian market "certainly can't be ignored", Singh, however said "whether it is my priority or not is premature to say but certainly it is in the considered set of markets".

Asked if SPN could make an expansion in the regional market within this year, even through acquisition, he said: "It might take a little longer than that because you have to be careful about which markets you pick and which route you take to enter those markets." 

Previously, erstwhile MSM had unsuccessfully tried to pick up 30 per cent stake in Telugu channel MAA, which was eventually snapped up by rival Star India.

Singh said, SPN has one regional channel, Sony Aath in Bengali on which it has experimented showcasing of some of the "marquee sports properties with Bangla language commentary, which did extremely well on that channel".

On the SPN's plans for expanding offering in the digital space, Singh said the company's OTT (over the top) platform Sony Liv which was launched three years ago initially with archival content from its own network has started streaming original content in the last one year with three series already screened.

"We are creating original series and in addition we are acquiring a lot of other content that is popular on digital platforms whether it is English movies or English general entertainment shows," he said.

As part of SPN's joint venture with BBC to launch BBC Earth in India under the name 'Sony BBC Earth' in a few months time, he said, "we are getting digital rights to a lot of the BBC Earth content which will also sit on Sony Liv." 

It is "becoming a very robust digital OTT platform for the subscribers and very recently, we also launched our subscription pack and as a part of that pack we are offering Bollywood movies as of now and subsequently we will offer Hollywood movies also as a part of that pack", he added.

When asked how content digital consumption will be affected by entry of Netflix in India, Singh said: "When a global player comes into the market, along with that you see some of the global experiences coming into the market, which is always good.' 

He, however, said it remains to be seen how the Indian consumer responds to a subscription led service.

"We ourselves launched our subscription pack which is just a month old and we have started to see some positive traction.

If we see a strong support for a subscription led model, then it is good for the entire market because, then you will be able to price your content competitively and not just on digital but also with (cable TV) digitisation happening in the market in phase III," Singh said.

"If there are subscribers who are willing to pay for the content that they consume, it augurs well from a television subscription perspective," he added.

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