Indian diversity is much talked about. Language, food and culture are the most mentioned topics when it comes to Indian diversity but content consumption preferences, and patterns, reflect the same diversity. Sony Picture Network has been serving content to the multitudes of Indian audiences since their inception and are further fine tuning their offerings to do this more efficiently.
Creative First recently caught up with N.P Singh, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Network to talk about the current landscape and what steps the company is going to take in the future to further strengthen their brand and position in the market.
Congratulations on becoming the President of the IBF NP! What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by the broadcasting industry and how do you plan on tackling them?
Thank you so much. I have been in this dynamic industry for almost two decades and to me, staying relevant in a fast-evolving ecosystem is one of the key challenges faced by broadcasters across the globe. Broadcasters must ensure that their content is available on all platforms and screens so that they can cater to a varied demographic and psychographic segments of viewers. Via our content, not only should we mirror societal patterns but also inspire by setting trends that will lead to a more progressive mindset.
Can you tell us a little bit about SPN’s “Go Beyond” positioning. How does that translate to content development for the various channels (and mediums)? Also, how are you communicating this positioning to the multitude of audience segments that you serve?
Our corporate philosophy of Go-Beyond is scripted with an attitude of positive restlessness, which encourages us at SPN to be brave, curious, insightful and visionary in everything we do and boldly challenge the status-quo. It takes leaders to Go-beyond at every step of the game because leaders just don’t prepare for the future, they create it. We aim to stay true to this philosophy, be it in the effort to produce and exhibit upscale, out of-the-box content, expand into new genres, escalate the digital game or become aggressive in sports.
Recently Sony launched Sony BBC Earth and Sony Marathi. How are they different from other channels that serve the same market?
SPN has a strong presence in India with a loyal audience base and strong market share. Consumer- insights indicate that viewers are aspiring to watch high quality programming with rich content that not only entertains but also provokes thought. Therefore, we came up with channels such as Sony BBC Earth and Sony Marathi to fill this need. As a testament to viewer confidence in our content offering, Sony BBC Earth became the No 1 channel in six metros, within one year of its launch.
With several international and regional productions under Sony’s film divisions, what is the future for this vertical from a content diversification perspective as well as from a bottom line point of view?
Sony Pictures Networks Productions was created to make movies that go beyond the norm to positively entertain audiences with a relevant message. In the past 5 years we have experimented with our offerings. From delivering a critically acclaimed film like ‘Piku’ to picking a controversial biographic like ‘Azhar’ to an inspiring life story of former Indian Hockey captain Sandeep Singh, ‘Soorma’ to an out-an-out entertainer ‘Mubarakan’, we believe our young studio is slowly carving its loyal audience. From drama to horror to slice of life cinema and now comedy, we aim to present content that engages, evokes and entertains our audiences.
SPN also launched StudioNext to develop new content. What’s the content creation approach that you are taking and what are some things in the pipeline that you are particularly excited about?
We see a great opportunity in the content space on television as well as digital platforms. With StudioNext, we will create and develop original IPs for TV and digital platforms for both, fiction and non-fiction formats. We kickstarted this journey with co-producing the 10th season of KBC in partnership with Big Synergy. We are excited to see what the future holds for the great line-up of shows, which will be ready to hit the screens soon.
OTT is on the rise and it’s not just from the biggies like Netflix and Amazon. We have over 40, big and small, digital platforms in India. How is SonyLIV positioning itself in this growing category?
We were the pioneers in introducing the concept of OTT to the Indian audience when we launched SonyLIV back in 2013. Our focus is to make SonyLIV the ultimate digital destination for sports. Further, we are also working towards aggregating content, where subscribers can now experience more action, drama and adventure with the perfect line-up of English movies and award-winning series to binge watch. We will continue in our efforts to curate an exceptional digital experience for our viewers.
Will OTT challenge TV? Especially for a company like Sony that is now offering both content consumption mediums to viewers.
In my opinion, one does not compete with the other. Both mediums have different audiences with some overlap. In addition, the way they are consumed is completely different and hence, TV and OTT provide completely different opportunities to content providers.
Given the nature of the medium, Digital and OTT platforms have huge amounts of data that can be used to understand audience behaviours and preferences and accordingly make decisions around various things like content, marketing etc… Data collection is not as easy or robust when it comes to broadband though. How does this impact decision making and are there any tools being used or developed to collect more data on a broadband medium?
We use state-of-the-art platforms like GA 360, Segment, Media Analytics, Brightcove Analytics amongst others to collect data and build insights. These tools help us in understanding audience behavior and their preferences better; help drive content targeting, engagement, recommendations and ad targeting. These solutions are designed to work in slow as well as broadband connections.
How much do you think piracy takes away from revenue, from the entire ecosystem, and what measures do you think need to be taken to curb it?
By some estimates the cost of piracy to the global media and entertainment industry could be more than USD 50 billion annually by the year 2022. The reality is that piracy cannot be eliminated but can only be curbed for which it requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders across the M&E spectrum. SPN has zero tolerance for piracy. It fights this menace in all possible ways within India and abroad– hiring specialist anti-piracy agencies, in-house legal efforts, engaging with external lawyers and law enforcement agencies. In a first of its kind initiative, we are working with our industry colleagues and the Mumbai police in a focused effort at taking down online pirate sites. I am happy to say this initiative has had early successes and thanks to the efforts of the Mumbai police, more than a 120 websites illegally streaming content have been taken down.
On the whole, the last few months have seen a lot of new initiatives by SPN. Strategically, how was the need for these assessed and what’s next?
Entertainment, Digital and Sports are our pillars of focus at SPN. For entertainment, our clear intent and objective was turning around our flagship channel and we have done well on that with the results evident. On digital, making SonyLIV a strong OTT platform and on Sports, to bolster our business and provide a multi-sport offering to viewers. With the acquisition of TEN Sports and key sporting properties we have been able to achieve that. So, in all the three focus areas we have made significant investments and we have seen positive returns. Going forward, we will continue to consolidate and grow the network.