Lionsgate’s growth plans for India market

MUMBAI: Lionsgate has made rapid strides after opening its office in the city a year and a half back. It is expanding its Lionsgate Play OTT initiative which is the core of what it is doing. It has done a deal with Vodafone Idea under which Lionsgate Play will be offered as part of the telecom operator’s bundle. The goal is to partner with all the telcos and reach the maximum number of consumers.

Talking about the India journey, Lionsgate India MD Rohit Jain said, “We entered at the beginning of 2018. We have since then invested in multiple businesses. This is an absolute priority market for us. We have four businesses. The first is our theatrical business and our recent movies have been ‘Anna’ and ‘Longshot’. Secondly, we license our content to TV channels like Star Movies, Sony Pix, Zee. Now we are investing in two new businesses. One of them involves developing television series. We are working on multiple series and are developing them in-house. We are working on three to four series which are high end, high octane premium series. Our focus is on high quality rather than on a certain number. Globally we have created very well-known series like ‘Orange Is The New Black’. We want to produce Indian language content.

“We have got the writers and showrunners on-board. Last year we had signed a couple of Indian co-production movies. The fourth business is really the heart of our investment in India. We have just launched our OTT business in partnership with Vodafone called Lionsgate Play. While we have over 17,000 titles our learning is that consumers spend so much time surfing for content to watch that they do not watch enough content. So we are focusing a lot on content curation and follow the mantra of less is more. We focus on having something new every week, a premiere every month like ‘American Assassin’. We don’t want to throw 17,000 titles at customers without a purpose. Lionsgate Play, for now, focusses on movies. We will look at a series next year.”

He noted that Lionsgate has partnered with Vodafone in many markets around the world. “All the telcos in the country have a triple play offer at the same price and you get voice, data, and content. We have an alliance with them where our offering is part of the triple play bundle and so it is convenient for the consumers. This is the first of many partnerships to come. Going forward in the next 12-18 months you will see many such partnerships announced. We want to maximise our reach and ensure that more and more audiences are able to sample and view Hollywood content. Our target is to reach over 100 million customers. In the initial year, we want to focus on reaching out to customers through partnerships. This is the fastest path to reach customers. We want to make sure that we reach out to consumers in a mass way. That is why have dubbed many of our movies in four languages- Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi. Eventually, we will also look at devices, hardware, OEM, app stores.”

He further stated that Lionsgate works with Sony globally in terms of content licensing and the same is the case in India. It also has a deal with Viacom18 and Star India. “Given the amount of content that we have we not only run our own service but we also help other services beef up their high-quality content.” He also noted that a trend being seen is English content consuming audiences, especially for entertainment moving away from TV to OTT.

“We have seen audiences moving to streaming when it comes to English content in the last couple of years. Fortunately, we are present across all these businesses. Each will have their own independent growth path. But when I say that the heart of our business is Lionsgate Play that is a good indication of where the future lies. Streaming is the future but we are very much invested in the good health of broadcasters as well.”

In terms of co-producing movies, Lionsgate had done a two-movie deal with Azure Entertainment last year. Now the company has done another movie deal with a producer.

He added that Lionsgate is open to investing in media companies in the country should the right opportunity come about. Jain added that Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer is very entrepreneurial in his mindset and that is why Lionsgate globally has done over 17 deals. So far there is nothing on the table for India. But if an opportunity fits in Lionsgate’s goals for the country and allows Lionsgate to create value then Lionsgate would look at it.

“Having said that the journey in India has been overwhelming and we are focused on each of the four businesses right now. We are very focused on the goals that we have set for ourselves.”

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