Benita Chacko

Can Sony LIV raise MasterChef India's stature to rival KBC's?

Ranjana Mangla, head ad revenue, Sony LIV, speaks about the culinary show's exclusive streaming on the OTT platform.

MasterChef India has returned for a second season on Sony Network, this time with a digital twist. Departing from its traditional television format, the show is embracing the digital streaming platform. This is the first time Sony LIV is experimenting with a digital-only reality show.

Ranjana Mangla, head ad revenue, Sony LIV, says this shift to digital is a response to evolving viewer preferences.

"Digital audiences have a strong affinity for food content, viewing it as entertainment rather than just cooking. This trend is evident across platforms like Instagram and other social media, where food content is prolific," she says.

The platform has roped in Veeba as its co-presenting sponsor, alongside partnerships with Acko, Nestlé Masala-ae-Magic, iD Fresh Foods, ITC Aashirvaad, India Gate Basmati Rice, Spaces, and Urban Company. As the new episodes of the show are available only for subscribers, these brands get access to a premium-paying audience.  

"Both traditional and modern brands have shown willingness to adapt to this shift. For example, Veeba is a relatively younger brand compared to its legacy counterparts and Urban Company is typically a service provider," she adds.

Apart from brand integrations, Sony LIV has brought in a new advertising format for the show- clickable Aston bands, which will be contextual for the brand. Brands will have the opportunity to associate with specific words through speech interventions. For example, if a brand wishes to link itself with words like taste, variety, and quality, each time these words are mentioned in the content, a clickable Aston will appear on the screen that will lead viewers to the brand's page.

"We aim to elevate MasterChef India to the stature of shows like KBC or even surpass them. We're in the process of exploring MasterChef's potential, focusing on content integration. This provides fantastic publishing opportunities, particularly regarding food-related content. We're actively innovating in both content creation and publication," she says.

Mangla says brands now view OTT platforms with the same significance as television. They have evolved their perception of digital platforms, which was earlier not a preferred choice for branding and awareness.

"What's particularly intriguing is the shift in advertising preferences. In the past, there was a prevailing belief that television was the primary medium, but this perception has rapidly transformed, especially in the context of our reality shows. This shift is pivotal for us as a broadcast network, given the robust performance of both television and OTT platforms," she says.

Mangla attributes this shift in perception of digital platforms to the rise of connected TV. 

"Reality show sponsorship revenue has reached an all-time high. There are roughly 22 to 30 million connected TV (CTV) homes in India, complemented by around 300 million daily OTT viewers. Combining the two creates a substantial audience," she says.

The adoption of CTV has been faster in urban and semi-urban areas due to improved connectivity, infrastructure, and other factors. Sony LIV's content is positioned for an urban premium audience, making its adoption on CTV quite phenomenal.

"In the CTV realm, we're performing exceptionally well. Our platform consistently ranks as a top choice. Our focus on urban and semi-urban premium content aligns with the adoption trends in CTV," she adds.

The platform's ad revenue is being driven by a synergy of reality shows, sports, and original content. Sony Liv boasts a 95% completion rate for 30-second ads.

"Content like MasterChef India, KBC, Asian Games, Shark Tank, Indian Idol, India's Best Dancer, and shows like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah have a unifying effect, bringing people together daily. Brands recognise the value of this engagement, and the ad inventory on these shows is highly coveted," Mangla says.

At a time when OTT platforms are attracting audiences with free offerings, both in terms of content and higher quality streaming, what exactly does the OTT audience seek?

Mangla says quality content and production are paramount in a content-saturated landscape. "The more value-added, meaningful content we offer, the better the chance of attracting family viewers. For content creators like us, understanding this opportunity and consistently enhancing it is key. At Sony, we recognize the significance of the time our audience invests in our content more than their subscription fees. We craft our content accordingly," she says.

The recently concluded Asian Games had a host of sponsors associated exclusively with Sony LIV, including Eatfit, JSW Sports, Maruti Suzuki, Limca, and Acko. Mangla says brands that are looking to connect deeply with the sports audience, beyond mere reach, cannot afford to overlook multi-sports events.

"Brands recognize the value of associating with multi-sports events, supporting the nation's growth, and emphasising their Indian identity," she says.

Hosting three multi-sports events—Commonwealth Games, Tokyo Olympics and Asian Games, in the last three years—Sony Network has become a destination for multi-sports events. However, they do not attract the viewership that major cricket tournaments tend to. Mangla says though they might not achieve massive peak viewership like cricket, multi-sports events provide substantial reach over the course of 15-16 days.

"Certain cricket matches in India can achieve high peak concurrency. However, the sustained reach over the period of the tournament would be as good as any India-specific tournament," she says.

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