Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

Partnerships are driving subscriber growth: Lionsgate Play's Amit Dhanuka

The two-year-old SVoD platform also intends to experiment with advertising. 

Last month, Lionsgate Play, the subscription video on demand (SVoD) platform, completed two years in India. The OTT platform’s partnerships with telecom companies, broadband providers, DTH operators and aggregator platforms have played a crucial role in widening its subscriber base in the country. 

Amit Dhanuka, executive vice president, Lionsgate, says the platform plans to take these partnerships deeper this year, so that they are available across all offerings to customers. 

"We have been the torchbearers in understanding that partnerships are essential in this market to grow subscribers. The growth is skewed towards the partnerships because they open up a larger funnel than what we would be able to get ourselves. These partnerships took time to evolve. So, we had a lot of customers come on to the platform earlier and they have stayed. Now, the partnerships are driving subscriber growth." 

The platform started on this journey by partnering with telecom companies like Jio, Airtel and Vodafone, to offer its services to their users. It was then strengthened with broadband partnership on Jio Fiber. It is now available across OTT aggregator platforms like Prime Video Channels, Dish Watcho, Tata Play and OTTplay. 

It is now looking to partner with cable platforms that don't have access to this content. 

"We will continue to cultivate new partners to ensure there is reach and, hence, monetisation. There are many cable platforms that still don't have access to this content, and these are the partners that we want to work with."

The SVoD platform also intends to experiment with advertising. "It's something that we have been exploring closely. We certainly plan to test it," Dhanuka mentions. 

Looking back at 2022, he says, the platform's biggest achievement has been that it remained relevant for its audiences in a highly competitive market like India. 

"We continue to see that our social media engagement has been great. Our share of voice has grown 3x, in terms of consumer perception this year." 

In 2022, the platform focussed on curating content on the app. "We have been able to define our app. Lionsgate Play has become the go-to destination for action, adrenaline, thriller and provocative content," Dhanuka says. 

It has also ensured that the user finds something relevant to watch within the first two pages of browsing. "Every week, we drop new content on the platform. So, every time the viewers come on the platform, they see something new."

Lionsgate Play focusses on niche English language content. However, as it attempts to widen its audience base and reach out to viewers beyond the metros, it is increasing its investments on Indian language content as well. The platform offers dubbed international content in six Indian languages - Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali and Bhojpuri (other than English). This helps it reach out to a larger audience.

It launched its Hindi originals in November 2021, with Hiccups & Hookups. And now, it dubs those shows in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as well. In 2023, it plans to continue to invest in Indian language originals. 

"Consumption is becoming language agnostic. We will also continue to acquire Hindi, Tamil and Telugu library movies, which fit into our content ethos to be able to serve those audiences a continuous staple consumption play," Dhanuka shares.

Lionsgate Play offers urban, edgy content for its core target group of 25-45 years. Its viewers come from across the country. Dhanuka says the consumption and subscription growth is now coming from beyond the metro cities as well. 

"Earlier, we thought we only had an urban audience, but this kind of content is consumed very well even in Tier-II and III towns. We keep getting requests to localise our movies and content in various Indian languages, and we continue to dub it in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada." 

Launched in December 2020, the Hollywood studio was one of the latest to launch an OTT service in India. The platform, which goes by Starz and Starz Play globally, has roughly 40 million subscribers worldwide, with a presence in over 55 countries.

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