23 Nov 2017
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How Sony plans to grow its international biz

MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) is planning to grow its international revenues through launch of new channels and increasing advertising revenues, a top executive of the company said.

rohit gupta02The focus going forward is to increase the number of SPNI’s offerings. “We will be launching new channels in the next one or two years. Our focus will also be on digital as these markets are rapidly moving towards the digital platform,” said SPNI president, network sales and international business Rohit Gupta.

Another focus area will be localised content, which is already being done. This, Gupta says, happens through special events. “For example, we have ‘Weekend Out’ in the Middle East market. There is an Asian variety show in the UK. The aim is to be closer to the consumer base so that they feel that they are a part of our channels. A lot of local marketing is being done through tie-ups with local events.”

Also important will be increasing the share of ad revenue. The focus will be on getting mainstream brands advertising more on Sony in different markets like the US and UK. Right now a large share of SPNI’s revenue from international markets comes from subscription. That ratio is changing fast, and the last few years have seen a very positive trend towards this objective. As Gupta points out, Asians are the most affluent and educated community in each of the core markets. They have more spending and influencing power than other ethnic groups, and advertisers will see value in this over a period of time.

“There needs to be additional focus on ad sales. If you see the Indians in the US and the UK, they are more affluent. The highest per capita-earning people are the Asians. We need to ensure that the mainstream media in those countries also advertise, which is what is happening in the UAE,” he observes.

SPNI’s biggest international market is the US, followed by the UK. “The US market is our biggest market, followed by the UK and then the Middle East. The Asia Pacific markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are relatively smaller,” avers Gupta.

SONY-PICTURES-NETWORKS_coverFive of SPNI’s channels are present abroad—Sony, Max, Sab, Mix and Aath. In North America, all the channels are present. In the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Europe, Sony Mix is not available. In terms of deals with platforms, he mentions Dish, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner, Verizon and many other cable distributors in the US.

“In Canada we are on ATN and on Bell. In the UK we are on Sky and on Virgin as well as a host of smaller platforms. If you look at the US which is obviously our largest business, Sony is the No. 1 Asian channel for a long time now as per Rentrack. ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ is the top show in that market,” says Gupta.

In the Middle East, the broadcaster is present on OSN and e-Vision. In South Africa it is on Multichoice. “There is no major platform that we are not present on globally. Our international business is based out of London, and we clearly have the best teams across the globe to manage these relationships. This team has been with us for a long time now and has over the years developed an excellent relationship with our key partners. There is mutual respect and strong bonds developed over the years and continuity always helps.”

All SPNI channels abroad are pay including in the UK. “Some of the channels from other rival networks have become free to air, but we still command a premium. Consumers are willing to pay for us because of the strong programming that we have. It resonates well with the audiences living in these developed markets. We have a good mix of entertainment, Bollywood and high-impact shows. Our shows are trendier and more urban. This reflects in the ratings in the US and the Middle East,” Gupta says.

Gupta reiterates that the international business is a good, profitable one for SPNI. “The international business is a significant contributor to our bottom line. It is a big business built over the years with a lot of credibility. Being an early mover, we are present on the major platforms across the globe catering to the growing Asian population. We launched our UK business back in 1998 and then the US in 2000,” he explains.