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Decoding the SonyLiv success story

‘To be able to consistently surprise and innovate has been our strength’

Priyanka Roy  | Published 09.08.22, 01:37 AM

In the last two years, SonyLIV has well and truly upped its game. Buoyed by innovative storytelling and a keen understanding of the streaming market, the OTT platform has brought in a host of memorable titles, its biggest breakthrough coming in with the massive success of Scam 1992 in October 2020. Since then, it’s been one success after another, as far as content is concerned for SonyLIV, which is not only grabbing every opportunity to showcase its distinctive eye for differentiated content but also learning from its mistakes. t2 chatted with Aman Srivastava, head of marketing at SonyLIV, to decode its dream run.

In broad strokes, how would you look back at the two years since SonyLIV overhauled itself?

It’s a run that we wish we can keep going on with (smiles). We have had some great stories on the platform that we were able to do justice to. We have been able to build a brand to reckon with. In an industry which is growing every day, we have been able to hold our sway. We have been able to tell our stories the way we want to. And I think we have been able to do so by taking both the consumer and the creator into account. It’s been a huge amount of teamwork, and not just a one-person, one-thing driven success.

What were the turning points?

Almost every title that we have had has been a game changer. We started with Your Honor, moved on to Undekhi, to Avrodh, to JL50.... And then came Scam 1992, which gave us more recognition than any other title before it. But every piece of content has brought in some growth for us.  Then came Maharani, Tabbar, Potluck... we had Rocket Boys. In the middle of all of this, there was also Kathmandu Connection. There were some great Malayalam movies as well. We also had the Marathi show Shantit Kranti. If you ask me to pick the Top 4 for us, it would be Scam (1992), Avrodh, Maharani and Rocket Boys.

What do you think sets SonyLIV apart from its competition?

The nature of the stories that we choose to tell. We came in wanting to bring in some cerebral content compared to what was being offered to OTT consumers at that time. We have always focused on celebrating not only our actors, but also our directors, writers, DoPs (director of photography), music.... Music has played such a big role for us. Scam was not just about its story, it’s music played a big part in it success as well. So was Rocket Boys... brilliant story, brilliant characters and it’s music also gave it an identity. These are the things that set us apart from every other content player. Consistency has also been a big strength for us.

What’s your target group?

For us, TG (target group) is more of a mindset. Our TG is people who are looking for differentiated content, people who are willing to explore stories beyond a specific genre. In demographic terms, it would be age 20+ to 45, male and female. Digital, as a platform, is more male-skewed, but some of our content, like Dr. Arora that we launched recently, has found a lot of female viewers. Even Potluck had quite a bit of female-skewed audience.

Who is your biggest competition? In terms of the content that you are putting out now, which platform comes closest to you?

Netflix, of course, has built their brand on great content. SonyLIV has been able to reach that level, and for some consumers, we have breached that bar as well. They have, of course, been there for quite a long time. For us, the journey started just two-and-a-half years ago. To be able to consistently surprise and innovate has been our strength.

Netflix’s biggest strength is its international programming slate. What’s the way forward for SonyLIV in that segment?

That is something that we are looking into. As of now, we don’t have plans to create our own international content. SPE (Sony Pictures Entertainment) is, of course, a partner and we have had some good English shows like Power, The Good Doctor.... A Discovery of Witches has been a show that has seen good traction on our platform. We have the whole Agatha Christie series on the platform. We are always looking for differentiated content in every segment. Alex Rider premiered on our platform and we have a second season for it as well. We are always looking to build on the titles that we have introduced and our focus is also on acquiring timeless titles so that we can build our repertoire.

If you had to do a SWOT analysis for the platform, what would you count as its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?

For SonyLIV, everything is an opportunity. Once we are in the game for a longer time, say in the next two years, we can pinpoint our strengths, weaknesses and threats. But today, it’s only opportunities. Storytelling in the digital world is constantly evolving. What Squid Game (on Netflix) has done to storytelling in this space is very different. We can’t say that what we are doing right now is the only thing that will work. At SonyLIV, we have shown the consumer a different kind of storytelling. If this prevails, then it will emerge as a great strength that we would have created for ourselves.

Complaints about the SonyLIV interface and how frustratingly difficult it is to navigate through the app have been common. How do you plan on addressing that?

This is not a problem that keeps just the tech and product team awake, it keeps everyone at SonyLIV awake. But we have actually improved a lot. Initially, we were not very user-friendly on smart TVs, but today we are at a stage where the app navigation has come on a par with industry standards. We have a very dedicated CRM team that has been very quick in solving these issues.

What have been the biggest learnings over the last two years?

One thing that we have realised is that the consumer accepts good content, irrespective of the language it is in. Earlier, we had no standing in south India, except offering them sports as content. But then we came in with movies in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and those really worked. The way we have navigated in picking content has been a big bonus for us. Shows like Scam, Maharani, Rocket Boys, Tabbar have transcended borders and have become popular in markets which have not been so accepting of Hindi content. We have started our Tamil originals as well.

Is there any plan to create Bengali content?

That’s definitely a part of the roadmap that we have. It takes a good amount of time to make a good show. We are constantly looking for good stories.

Slice-of-life stories and thrillers have been your forte. Going forward, what kind of stories are you looking to commission and showcase?

We have some great shows this year. There is Faadu, made by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (starring Saiyami Kher and Pavail Gulati), there is Jengaburu: A Billion Dollar Cause, there is Jehanabad.... The creator wants us to say that Faadu is a poetic love story (smiles). Jehanabad is also a love story but set against the backdrop of a historical event, which is the Jehanabad jail break. We have Tamilrockerz on August 19, which is the biggest story in that market and focuses on piracy. We are coming up with Telugu originals. We will also bring to you Freedom at Midnight... we have got the rights to the book (written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre). We will also have the next seasons of Scam, Rocket Boys and Potluck. 

Last updated on 09.08.22, 04:24 AM
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