Benita Chacko

“SonyLIV’s next lease of growth will come from expanding its regional viewer base:” Ashish Golwalkar

The streaming platform’s content head and Deepak Segal, head of content, Applause Entertainment, speak of 2022 being the year of sequels.

The second season of SonyLIV’s original web series Undekhi will be released on Friday. For the streaming platform, 2022 is set to be a year of sequels with many popular shows returning with the second seasons this year. After Undekhi, we are set to watch Scam 2, Maharani 2, Avrodh 2 and Rocket Boys 2.

SonyLIV entered the original content space in June 2020 with the launch of Your Honor. It is with the same show that the platform embarked on its journey of creating sequels. The second season of the thriller drama featured in November 2021. This was followed by the platform launching Cubicles 2 in January and now it is Undekhi 2. 2022 has many more season 2s in the offing.

In an interview with afaqs, Ashish Golwalkar, content head, SonyLIV and Sony Entertainment Television, Sony Pictures Networks, and Deepak Segal, head of content, Applause Entertainment, speaks about the sequels of the popular shows and the platform’s growth plans.

Golwalkar said it is both an advantage and a challenge to create a sequel. An advantage because the same stories are being continued and the audience is already familiar with the characters. “The disadvantage is more on the creators, who have to live up to the expectations of a superhit season.”

While many television serials have also attempted creating sequels, not many have been successful. “Television serials are not written in a way that sequels can be created. The characterization and the journey is written in a way that it culminates,” Golwalkar said.

However on OTT, sequels work well for the platform. The characters are pre-built, the effort to market the show is much less and people want to know what has happened to them further. The shows ended in a way that there is always a story to explore. The OTT audience behaviour is very different from the way people watch television. So in my opinion seasons for OTT will continue to work,” he added.

Of these shows that are now going into its second season, many have been created by Applause Entertainment, including Scam 1992, Undekhi, Your Honor and Avrodh.

Admitting that creating sequels is difficult, Segal said it is important to have a character arc in mind. “We've already written a bare bones story of the third season of Your Honor. So if it does get asked for then we're ready to go.”

While the platform has several films in Indian languages other than Hindi, it doesn’t have a strong pipeline of Originals in these languages. Golwalkar said that it will strengthen its regional offering this financial year and the next growth is going to be from these regional markets.

“The next lease of exponential growth will come from expanding our regional viewer base. We've just been the tip of the iceberg and not gone deeper in those markets. We are just programming a few films. We are hopeful that the real growth will come when we add original play along with the curated films. Currently there are three languages, but hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have other languages as well,” he said.

He believes that the content from here will have the potential to travel the world, just like Korean content does.

“We are extremely aggressive in all the south markets, particularly in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. We are also exploring other regional markets like Bengali and Punjabi. Creators in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam are bubbling with ideas. The only problem is that it's at a very initial stage, probably where Hindi content was four years back. But I'm sure that OTT platforms, either us or someone else, will soon crack those regions. We have commissioned some stunning stories.”

Over the years Applause Entertainment has created around 34 original shows for various streaming platforms. Segal highlighted two risks it took along the way and how it paid off.

“First is the decision to invest in the entire series and then sell it instead of showing a pilot or a script to the platform first. And the second is the conscious decision to work with a brand new set of people, who are at least 20 years younger than us, and not to work with our broadcast and production friend,” he said.

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