Submitted by admin on Sun, 03/04/2018 - 16:40

In the six months since Tushar Shah took over as EVP & Business Head of Sony Pictures Networks’ English Cluster, he has been busy drawing up the road map for the cluster, on the back of consumer insights and varied content


In September last year, Tushar Shah, the head of Sony Aath – the Bengali channel of Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India, took over as EVP & Business Head, SPN English Cluster, with the added mandate to oversee the movie channels, Sony Pix and Sony Le PLEX HD, GEC channel AXN and the infotainment channel, Sony BBC Earth. The English genre as a whole, has seen challenging times in the last couple of years even though the category witnessed viewership growth. Shah comments, “English movies grew by 67% from 2016 to 2017, while English entertainment has seen a small percentage growth. SPN’s English cluster grew by 54% and we see it growing further.” Interestingly, Shah also points out that data shows that the proliferation of OTT platforms has also augmented growth for English channels.

That said, revenue was flat, as Rohit Gupta, President, Network Sales and International Business, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) points out. “It’s been a challenging year for the English cluster but I believe the worst is behind us. English movies segment was growing at 25 - 30% year-on-year and the cluster was growing by over 20%. Last year, the growth bottomed out and it continued to be  flat this year. Hopefully next year, we should start seeing signs of positive growth,” he says.


With movies as the key growth driver, SPN is confident of growth going forward and is betting on its content. The network has a line-up of films from major Hollywood studios including Walt Disney Pictures, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures, Lionsgate and content aggregator, PVR Pictures. With a year-to-date (YTD) market share of 18.2%, in terms of viewership, Sony PIX is number two in the category. (Source: BARC: All India 1 Mn+, TG: CS15-40 AB, Period: Wk 14, 17 to Wk 8, 18)

In August 2016, SPN added a new segment to its movie portfolio with the launch of the premium movie channel, Sony Le PLEX HD. “It was the right decision to get Le PLEX into the market to appeal to that section of the audience. We have been able to deliver and have been accepted,” remarks Shah. As per SPN, the premium English movie channel is the leader in its space, with a market share of 32%. (Source: BARC: All India 1Mn+ 15-40 AB, Period: Wk 01’18 to Wk 08’18)


Moving on to the GEC space, Shah says that providing varied content – reality, entertainment and drama - has helped AXN reach a wide segment of the the audience. According to SPN, AXN is the channel of choice for both male and female viewers, with a market share of 24.7% and is the leader in the genre. (Source: BARC: All India 1 Mn+, TG: CS15-40 AB, Period: Wk 14, 17 to Wk 8, 18). He continues, “Our differentiator is the choice of content and deep understanding of the consumer. Anticipating what the consumer would like is where we come from and we have to be ahead of the curve in terms of what we offer to them.” A key strategy is ensuring that marquee shows that are telecast on AXN are not available on OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hotstar. These include shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Brave and Billions, amongst others.


In March 2017, SPN launched Sony BBC Earth, a premium factual entertainment channel in a joint venture with BBC Worldwide. Commenting on the category, Shah says, “The category that we  are in is called infotainment but is it really infotainment? Is Sony BBC Earth infotainment? Absolutely! Are others infotainment, I am not too sure.” He elaborates, “As a category, factual entertainment has moved away from infotainment to entertainment. It has moved away from information and education to gimmicky snacky programming. Our objective is to bring the glorious days of infotainment back to television with the content that we want to showcase. We went back to the consumer to ask them what they wanted and found a demand for never-before-seen content.” Going forward Shah says, “We obviously have to catch-up  in terms of performance, but we are slow and steady. Our plans are competitive and our offering is extremely enticing. In time, we are hopeful we will be competitive in terms of numbers as well.”

On a final note, Shah is looking at aggressive growth in a ‘category full of opportunities.’ He says, “We have lined up exciting content based on our research and understanding of our consumers, across all our channels. We will only grow from here. I am bullish about 2018.” Even on the revenue front, Gupta is optimistic. “Initially, because it was low hanging fruit, money started going to Digital, but over a period of time, brands have realized that English entertainment is important, especially for the youth and the SEC A audiences. The money which started going to Digital will come back, as Digital now has its own budget. This is a positive and a growing trend now.”

@ FEEDBACK simran.sabherwal@exchange4media.com

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