New Delhi: Hollywood studio Lionsgate is looking at a two-pronged strategy in the Indian market where it announced its entry two years ago. The North American company, which has set up an office in Mumbai, is the first to bring in its over-the-top (OTT) video streaming service Lionsgate Play to the country. The service will be a curation of the high-profile Hollywood library it has accumulated over the years.
As of now, STARZPLAY, the international premium subscription platform from STARZ, a Lionsgate company, and telecom operator Vodafone Idea Ltd have joined hands to launch Lionsgate Play in India. Lionsgate Play will be available to Vodafone Play and Idea Movies and TV subscribers as a part of this strategic collaboration between the two companies.
“At the core of our investment globally, as well as in India, lies Lionsgate Play," said Rohit Jain, managing director, Lionsgate India. “As a company, Lionsgate has launched its streaming service in more than 45 countries in the last couple of years. This is going to be a very core area of focus for us in the years to come, and not just in India."
Jain said it was too early to talk about Indian originals for the Lionsgate Play service given that the OTT market in India is still at a nascent stage and while there is a lot of noise around original content, only 10-15 series have come out in the last two years. The focus for the company, at the moment, is to bring high-octane Hollywood content to Indian audiences.
“We believe there is a massive gap in that space. Television channels like Star Movies and Sony Pix, don’t even reach out to 10 million customers (in India) while OTT platforms are also looking at a single-digit or low double-digit subscriber number. We want to work with large distributors and look at strategic alliances to reach out to at least 100 million customers in the coming years," Jain said, adding that the company is likely to make many announcements with aggregators like Vodafone in the coming quarters.
The line-up on Lionsgate Play will include company-owned IP (intellectual property) such as dystopian science fiction adventure series The Hunger Games (2012), romantic drama fantasy The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (2012), heist thriller Now You See Me (2013), Oscar-winning romantic musical La La Land (2016), comedy drama Wonder (2017) and action adventure Robinhood (2018) among other offerings.
Upcoming Lionsgate productions such as Daniel Craig-starrer Knives Out will also be available on the service. All of these will be dubbed in four Indian languages—Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi to reach out to mass audiences.
Declining to comment on investment numbers for India, Jain said the second part of the strategy is for Lionsgate to look at movie production, it has tied up with Bollywood production house Azure Entertainment, known for films like Badla, for two feature films that they will be co-producing. There is another movie announcement slated for the coming weeks.
“Any good production house will see that India is a big and growing market for Hollywood films," said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar adding that India’s contribution to the worldwide box office of Hollywood blockbusters has grown from 5% to nearly 20% in the past few years and a service like Lionsgate Play is a means to cater directly to one of the world’s top markets. However, given that platforms like Disney+ with marquee American properties are also poised to enter the country, it will all boil down to the content that is on offer. As far as movie productions go, enough foreign companies including Fox Star Studios and Sony Pictures Networks have realized that the only way to survive the Indian market is to partner with local producers. In fact, in 2016, the Walt Disney Co. India decided to pull the plug on its Hindi movie production business after a spate of misfires.
“They will need to identify a local connect for the stories they tell and collaborate with the right partners." Johar said.