On India’s latest OTT platform, Lionsgate Play

After taking its 17,000-title film and television library to over 45 countries, content giant Lionsgate finally made its way to India this August with OTT platform, Lionsgate Play. Targeting regional audiences and going beyond just Hindi and English content, the Canadian-American entertainment company’s strategy is clear: to stand out from the rather overcrowded playing field of online content providers.

Launched on August 14 in partnership with Vodafone Idea, it is currently exclusive to their streaming platforms: Vodafone Play and Idea Movies & TV. Viewers can look forward to over 1,000 hours of streaming content, including mega-hit franchises such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, Step Up, and films like La La Land and Wonder.

On India’s latest OTT platform, Lionsgate Play

Not just competition

Rohit Jain, MD at Lionsgate India, contends that it is too early to worry about an overcrowded market. India has over 30 OTT platforms and while Netflix and Amazon Prime are firmly ensconced in the consciousness of streamers, Jain believes he’s expanding the pie and not necessarily competing for attention. He insists that customers are discerning enough to know what they want to watch and will gravitate towards quality content.

But what happens when competitors have quality content as well? The answer is unclear. Lionsgate Play claims to offer premium offerings from Hollywood as well as TV shows. Jain mentions how the company has produced many critically acclaimed shows (all streaming on Netflix) including Orange is the New Black, Mad Men and Dear White People. Upcoming productions such as Daniel Craig-starrer Knives Out will also be available on the platform after its release in November this year.

Offering an interesting analogy with television, where hundreds of channels compete and co-exist with each other, he says each platform has its own audience and tends to bring something unique to viewers. Streaming, too, he says, will likely go the same way. It is, however, an analogy built on hope. Television, for instance, ushered in the boom in modern advertising, which provided a steady source of revenue. Streaming services have mostly shunned advertising in favour of paltry subscription fees from customers. Lionsgate Play, too, depends on the mobile subscription revenue that Vodafone and Idea collect.

On India’s latest OTT platform, Lionsgate Play

Battle of the originals

For the average viewer, where will the differentiation — or viewing hook — come from? In recent times, original content from various platforms has been pitched to customers as a significant attracting factor. And 54% of all the original content released in India for the 2019 financial year were short form, less than 20 minutes (KPMG 2019 report). Arguably, the high-profile original content war is being fought between Netflix and Amazon Prime whose smash-hit shows such as Sacred Games, Mirzapur and Made in Heaven have set the benchmark for others to scale. (altBalaji, Zee5, Voot etc regularly churn out originals as well.)

Lionsgate Play, too, is busy producing its own slate of originals. Jain rightly points out that it’s too early to call the field because in the last two years barely a handful of India-made originals have left a mark. “We are also remaking two high-concept international properties — Mexican comedy, Instructions Not Included, and South Korean action thriller, The Terror Live — in collaboration with Azure Entertainment,” he adds.

The numbers game

In addition, he believes there are many miles to be covered in accessing India’s vast potential audience for such content. He says that television channels like Star Movies, by most accounts, reach around 10 million viewers. OTT platform viewers are also in single-digits or low double-digits.

On India’s latest OTT platform, Lionsgate Play

Jain plans to work with large distributors and look at strategic alliances to reach at least 100 million customers over the next few years. Further, he insists that Lionsgate Play is going to go deeper into India. After all, most of their content will be dubbed into four Indian languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.

There is, however, a catch. Only Vodafone and Idea mobile subscribers can access it. If you’re on any other network — as about 75% of Indian subscribers are — you are out of luck. There is no website either: the content is limited to mobile/tablet apps and restricted to subscribers only. Jain says they are also in the process of closing in on other deals with companies across industries such as telecom and ecommerce. “We will have more launches in the next 12-18 months and will make our service available to even more consumers,” he concludes.

(Lionsgate Play is available on Vodafone Play)

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 8:53:43 AM |

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