2 min read.Updated: 11 Aug 2020, 12:09 PM ISTLata Jha
VOOT brings a lot of reality, fiction, kids and movies while SonyLIV adds a much needed sports catalogue to the mix
A combined slate will assure a steady pipeline of fresh local programming, say analysts
NE DELHI: Sony Pictures Networks and Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd's imminent merger is likely to help their respective video streaming platforms, SonyLIV and VOOT, come together to form an entity that will have 20-30% higher revenue than the two did individually.
As services owned by broadcast networks, the two have remained small players in the OTT (over-the-top streaming) space in India so far, capitalising on catch-up television content. But the high-profile merger—expected to be announced soon—will give them greater size, scale and bargaining power to create more original content, said media industry experts.
Sony, Viacom as well as Reliance (Viacom18 is a 51:49 joint venture between Reliance-owned Network18 and US based Viacom Inc) did not respond to Mint’s queries.
“Both SonyLIV and VOOT have so far remained in the middle of the OTT spectrum in India that is dominated by Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and to an extent, ALTBalaji," Chandrima Mitra, partner at DSK Legal said. While much of urban India is glued to international, English language content that is best curated by Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar, the last two are also much better equipped with Indian originals including libraries of non-Hindi local language content.
Earlier this year, Amazon had unveiled the ambitious plan of launching one Indian original per month and has stayed true to it, with titles like Panchayat, Pataal Lok, Bandish Bandits and others. Meanwhile, Disney+ Hotstar has upped the acquisition game during the lockdown with big-ticket Bollywood titles like Laxmmi Bomb, Bhuj: The Pride of India, Sadak 2 and others that will premiere directly on the service besides already boasting of popular sporting leagues such as the Indian Premier League.
However, there is much potential in SonyLIV and VOOT coming together as well. Kishankumar Shyamalan, vice-president at media agency Wavemaker India said the two platforms complement each other well on nature and type of content, core markets and consumer base. VOOT brings a lot of reality, fiction, kids and movies while SonyLIV adds a much needed sports catalogue to the mix. Their combined might could also result in them together purchasing more direct-to-OTT movies considering the sluggish state on movie theatre openings which again is a huge battlefield now, Shyamalan added.
“Ample synergies can be explored from the merger of SonyLIV and VOOT. For instance, the complementary content portfolio between them will result in a net increase of unique users for the platform, an important currency to draw more advertisers," Mihir Shah, vice-president at research firm Media Partners Asia said.
“Both platforms have been late in their original content play which is critical to drive paying subscribers. A combined slate will assure a steady pipeline of fresh local programming. Together we can expect a roll out of 20 original shows over the course of this year," Shah added.
To be sure, SonyLIV has been dabbling with some original content lately, with critically acclaimed shows like Undekhi, Avrodh: The Siege Within, Your Honour and others as well as acquired movie titles such as Bhonsle and Kadakh. VOOT also launched a subscription tier called VOOT Select earlier this year with originals such as Asur and Marzi.
“Like with platforms owned by most broadcasters, they have always faced constraints on budget but they might go for big-budget shows now," Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd said. He added, however, that taking on global giants like Netflix and Amazon will require the development of world-class product experience and user interface using global technology, besides original content to pad it up.
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