NewsX was recently joined by Rohit Jain, MD, Lionsgate South Asia & Networks, Emerging Markets Asia for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where he spoke about the organization and its unique strategies.
Talking about Lionsgate launch, plans for India and what launching its own platform entail Jain said, “ So a couple of things are taking a step back globally. Our OTT platform runs under the brandname ‘Stars Play’ in large parts of Asia we have branded it as Lionsgate Play, but we are now running across about 55 plus countries, one of the most widely distributed OTT platforms worldwide and within that scheme of things India is among the international markets and prioritize as one of the top 5 focus markets. So, in that sense the entire Lionsgate leadership team , myself, we are extremely focused on India and its opportunity.”
Talking about the USP of the organisation Rohit said, “We have 4-5 things that make us the brand we are worldwide. I’ll answer this in two parts. First, our USP is our content strategy. We are extremely focused on content creation, our curation of best from all over the world is something that is very central to everything we do. One of our learnings in time after time, every research that we do is that this abundance of content sometimes with the consumers. While there is an abundance of content, they are yet struggling to find what to watch next. Our latest marketing campaign is to browse less and play more. So just our curation strategy. The second is in terms of the premiumness of our content. We are about very premium, very cinematic scale content, high budget series, movies, blockbuster movies and all of that. So, I think that is very important to us. Just the experience we are working on in terms of our app engagement, there is a lot of work happening in that area, especially in the Indian market we see there’s a wide gap between experience promise and delivery in many cases.”
“Lastly, I would say specific to India is just the price point. If you look at the premium platform, our global peer group in India is priced between 199 to 299 per month and I am not even counting the 500 rupee outlier. We are priced at 99 rupee per month, with an annual price of 699. I think with the content that we have it becomes very super attractive but the second part to mention in a buzzing market like India and sometimes we get a little overwhelmed with the data but from the way we look at it, we are still a very very underserved market and to give an example, US with a 10 year old OTT market has around 800 OTT apps with at least 80 of them being subscription based and I’d say major premium OTT platforms would be about 8-10 with many more launching every year. You’ve got HBO max launching, peacock and so many more. We are still a market with 6-8 subscription platforms and arguably only 3 premium content. So I think we have, given the budgets that people have, 2-3 who play in the premium content and then a bunch of others who play in TV plus quality. We are still at the beginning curve of the India OTT market and there’s still a dearth of premium platforms we believe that this is a great time for us to come in,” said Rohit.
Speaking about the content strategy for India he said, “Our content strategy is kind of interesting and very differentiated from every other major global platform. Core to that is the belief that technology has allowed us to break the barriers of both geography and language. Today people are watching content across all languages, we are sitting in India watching Spanish, Italian, Korean everything. So, we look at the globe as one common market place. When we look at our originals for example, we look at our originals as a common content slate and a well rounded slate that I want to offer my consumers all over the world. Indians are as global as people in the UK, US or anywhere else. What that means is that I’ll be creating something like we have a fantastic series called ‘Hotel Continental and the production’ which is based on the very famous John Wick franchise. We have something called ‘Vida’ that’s been made on mexican sisters. If there is something being made in the UK called ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ based on Queen Elizabeth I and we have some great Indian stories that are getting produced in India so it becomes really interesting. When we look at a two billion dollar investment in content it just allows us to look at the world a little bit differently. The other is our content strategy and that is worldwide. Unlike some other platforms we are not a family audience network, we are a lot about young to mature adult age groups. Hence, our content is very edgy, very urban and very provocative and stories that are untold. So it is a lot about that and a lot of that will be demonstrated of course and nothing to take away from our great Indian slate that is going to come up in the next few months. You’ll hear more about it but we’re working with very accomplished makers, actors and I’m very excited about how things are coming along.”
Talking about working with Indian actors, writers and directors he said, “We have our first lead of originals going into production. We are working with great makers that we love and believe who have knowledge of the entire digital OTT content, storytelling people who have belief system the same as we have so we’re working with people like Kunal Kohli, we are doing some co-productions with Anil Kapoor, we’re doing some stuff with Endemol. So, again these are the things we are very excited about and in coming weeks you’ll start hearing more about it in terms of a little more colours to all our series.”
Lastly, talking about the response in India and future plans Rohit remarked, “Response has been great. We have followed a unique strategy, all OTT platforms in India have gone from B2C first and then they’ve gone and collaborated with B2B players especially telcos. We followed the reverse, we actually launched our B2B in 2019 and we launched our B2B in November. It has allowed literally 10-15 million consumers to come sample our content and engage with us. There is no academic research that is as fulfilling as actual insights. We’ve had 1-1.5 years of actual data around what people are watching, what they are enjoying. All of that has led us to launch with far more knowledge than a typical launch would be. The numbers with the launch have been great so far, they’re always short of my global CEOs expectation, given the ambition he has around the region. But it is coming along really well so far. We are also launching a bunch of more markets in the next few months. The second big market in Asia has very similar macroeconomic factors like India, is Indonesia and we’re launching that next month. All in all we are very excited for 2021 with the vaccination drive in the process hopefully this is a great year for everyone.”