With production halted, everyone will face a vacuum in content: Ashish Golwalkar, SonyLIV

Ashish Golwalkar SonyLIV

With SonyLIV 2.0 app announcing its line-up, Ashish Golwalkar, Head-Content SET, Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks India takes us through the content strategy, focus on original content & future plans for the OTT platform.

With an evolved brand identity, SonyLIV is all set to bring forth an array of original content ranging from thrilling fictional narratives to real-life incidents and more. Aiming to challenge the predominant beliefs of morality and ethics, SonyLIV’s very first original content titled ‘Your Honor’ went Live on 18th June 2020.

As the platform gears up for Unlock 1.0 & announces the content line-up on its app, Ashish Golwalkar, Head-Content SET, Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks India takes us through its programming strategy, content focussed on Indian stories & more transitions that are to come with uncertain times ahead.

Edited Excerpts:

With the launch of ‘Your Honor’ and more upcoming series, what is the content strategy for the platform? Keeping in mind the changing consumer habits during the last few months?

We will be launching a new app. Whatever content was there on the platform, we plan to shift the stories from the old built to the new UI. During COVID-19, we have been working on Sony Liv 2.0, and you will see the content offerings from now on.

Not much of sports content is happening now. We also keep on experimenting with & leveraging nostalgia because we have such a massive content library on Sony TV & SAB. So, we feature all our shows from ‘Bade Ache Lagte hai’ to ‘Balveer’, and more, on the app for people to discover it later.

Which content hooks work best for the platform?

Good content. Nobody knows what exactly works best. But I believe what usually works is:

  • Conviction
  • the purity in thoughts &
  • Your intention

If your intent is right & the storyteller is really passionate about the subject, and if it is real & relatable, somewhere it finds its viewers.

It has to be intellectually enriching & they have to be fresh in terms of the narrative. If the intent is pure, every piece of content finds its place.

Please take us through the programming strategy at this time. How did the production halt impact your content line up?

Currently, we are focusing on stories that are very Indian in its approach. It could be biographies, it could be the rich literature we have. We have stories all around us, that need to be told. I think those are the shows you will see in the days to come. It could be historical or a present-day story but the narrative of the stories would be progressive & forward-looking based on core Indian Value system but yet good for people in the world to watch them.

We will also focus on a lot of comedy as it is the slice of life because crime & thriller gets ticked up on OTT platforms, a lot. People want to watch probably a lot of engaging thriller & crime. While we will also do a bit of crime & thriller, etc, we will also focus a lot on comedy and family content with fresher narratives.

In terms of makers, we are working with some passionate content creators such as Nikhil Advani, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Siddharth Roy Kapur, etc. Rohan Sippy is directing a film for us.

For regional, we have Nagaraj; we are working with some of the big names. We have an existing relationship with TVF & have further deepened ties with them. Gullak 2 is going to come & some big brands & shows are gonna be on the app.

We are also curating films- some stories that need to be told. They’re either dark comedy like Kadakh starring Ranvir Shorey, there’s another film with engaging & provocative content starring Manoj Bajpai who has done a superb job in the film-Bhonsle. There are more films lined up on the app based on good stories that need to reach the audience.

With other players in the market, how will SonyLIV have an edge over them? 

In the end of it, people come to watch content. The content has to be delivered in a cutting-edge manner. Though these are early days, so it will take some time for you to have that seamless experience but we work very hard to bring the viewer experience & user-interface. It is far superior to what it was, earlier. We will improve it constantly.

The challenge is the kind of content and the way we market it to our viewers. We already have popular Television platforms- Sony TV & SAB that are creating content popular in the digital world. Reaching out to viewers for us is a relatively easier part.

Ultimately, some of this audience will come to watch the catch-up content which is AVOD. To convert them to subscribers will be a bit of a challenge.

However, the content we plan to roll out basis our strategy, we believe, will help us get a decent number of subscribers in the year.

Also read: I preferred the ‘old abnormal’ to this ‘new normal’: Ram Madhvani,…

Sports content has been one of the premium offerings for SonyLIV. But with it coming to almost a standstill, what is the alternative strategy that SonyLIV plans to adopt for lead generation & consumer retention plan?

Unfortunately, there is no alternative to sports content. It has its own audience who are not satisfied with any other thing. The world is trying to go towards normalcy. We are getting to hear that cricket & other formats will resume. So, we will have a sports play, as well. At the moment, if you are saying, what can replace what, in my view, nothing.

What is your focussed target audience at this moment?

We are, as a network, slightly urban in its approach. In terms of the outlook, we have the intellectual strata as the viewers, people who are progressive & well-read, may or may not be affluent in terms of the money. But these are the people we want to continue to target on our platform.

Plans & key changes to expect in the post-COVID-19 period & the way forward?

There is going to be a vacuum everywhere. Most of the shows that were in production, is going to impact everyone’s content plan because in the past 2-3 months nothing has happened and we don’t know how long it will take for everybody to resume the shoot in the same way as we were doing it earlier. So, the scenario will certainly slow down. Hence, a lot of people like us are acquiring films.

In my opinion, there is an appetite for people on OTT platforms. If at all we go up then a lot of people would have explored OTT in a much deeper way than what they did ever before. Thanks to the TV channels who are running repeats where they find content. While that will happen, there is also a monotonous content that is available on OTTs. So, of course, when television will come back, people will go back there.

A lot of transition is going to happen. In my 43 years of my life, I have not seen anything like this. We can only guess as we do not know how will it all exactly pan out. Largely, our focus remains on the original series & not just films for the days to come.

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Aishwarrya Chakraverty
A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.

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