Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) is celebrating its silver jubilee, after completing 25 years of existence.
Taking pen to paper, Managing Director and CEO of SPN, N.P Singh wrote a note to the media fraternity. He touched upon the firsts by the hugely popular broadcaster including the first to associate with the now global brand, Indian Premier League in 2007 and the launch of Sony MAX in 1999.
Singh starts off the letter with the journey of Sony Pictures Networks and the launch of Sony TV. He says, “In the early 1990’s the Indian broadcast industry was in its infancy. When the government opened the country’s airwaves in 1991, a few visionaries seized the opportunity. One of these was Sony, known mainly for its massive consumer electronics business and Hollywood studios. They entered the Indian market on October 8, 1995, with the launch of a Hindi entertainment channel, Sony Entertainment Television.
From one channel, bit by bit, we became a 24-channel network with a digital OTT service SonyLIV, a film production arm, SPN Productions and a content creation studio, Studio NEXT. The company has steadily grown over the years to an employee count of around 1200, with its services available across 167 countries and reaching over 700 million viewers. Today, Sony Pictures Networks (SPN), with aggressive growth demonstrated in the last few years, is among the top entertainment and sports networks in the country, recognised as an employer of choice within and outside the media fraternity.
Thinking back, the strategy from the start has not only revolved around running a successful business but also creating impact for all stakeholders coupled with the intent of building a brand known for innovative content. It is my firm belief, doing things only for the sake of doing, inevitably leads to stagnancy than success. Impact is a true measure of organization vision.
When one talks about creating impact there is no better example than the bold bet on the IPL. This was uncharted territory in 2007 when cricket leagues were unheard of. We invested in it when there were hardly any believers and moulded it into one of the most valuable sports entertainment properties in the country. Rest, as they say, is history.
Creating category firsts over the tears stands out when I look back. After the launch of SET in 1995 came the launch of Sony MAX in 1999. It was a one of its kind channel that offered our viewers blockbuster Hindi movies, cricket and special events. This created a unique and unparalleled three-pronged channel identity which has not been replicated since. Challenging the status quo has always been in SPN’s DNA> Some of the India’s most iconic entertainment properties that have stood the test of time have been from the SPN stable. We have pioneered many a trend in the market and are immensely proud of it.
I am also gratified that SPN has always observed fiscal discipline. This has been a key reason for our success in a highly competitive space. We have invested where we expected a strong strategic and economic value and exited from properties which appeared unviable over the longer term. In the last 25 years, we have only invested where we knew there was a clear ROI. Acquiring SAB took our entertainment business to another level, giving us a strong market share of Hindi general entertainment. We acquired TEN Sports to further strengthen our place in sports entertainment and that too worked well for us. Another acquisition that has worked really well is Sony Aath. We took our time to launch a kid’s channel. Sony YAY! The new channel has come up with a unique proposition in a cluttered category, and it did so through homegrown content; again, a category first. Our foray into the regional language space with the recent launch of Sony Marathi shows great promise.
We have had a fair share of challenges but have always taken them head-on. Through rigorous focus, our flagship channel SET has been turned around and now is a torchbearer for relevant, progressive content. Presently our footprint pervades the categories and genres of English, regional and factual entertainment besides Hindi entertainment, sports and movies. Societal reflections have been delicately portrayed in our movies; be it the story of a legendary mathematician (Shakuntala) or an inspirational hockey star (Soorma) or the fun side of arranged marriages (Mubarakan) and father-daughter relationships (Piku). Truly, film productions under our banner have left lasting impressions.
We realized early on that digital needed to be the cornerstone of our strategy. In 2013, SPN became the first broadcaster in the country to launch an OTT platform. For all practical purposes, SonyLIV was like a start-up in an established organization and this came with its own set of challenges. But today, SonyLIV in its refreshed avatar, with its emphasis on premium original web content from our linear business, is among the most watched OTT platforms in India. I am very confident of its bright future.
What also served SPN well has been valuing its partnerships with content creators, top talent, distribution platforms, advertisers and advertising agencies, media vendors, employees and other stakeholders. Whether distribution or advertising, our partnership approach has been fortifies by our ‘Solutions at any cost’ philosophy. We have forged a strong partnership with BBC Worldwide to launch a very successful premium factual entertainment channel, Sony BBC Earth, Our long standing partnerships with some of the biggest names in the world of sport including WWE, NBA, Cricket Australia, ECB and Sri Lanka Cricket, bring live content to our viewers in India.
One can go on and on about SPN’s achievements. But it is more important to understand that at the end of the day, an organisation is only as good as its people. It is a matter of pride that we have cultivated an empowering workplace culture, standing tall on the tenets of consumer centricity, innovation, collaboration and diversity; recognised by the industry as one of India’s Great Places to Work. Our workplace ethos encourages larger participation of women at all levels of the organisation and we are considered one of the best workplaces to work for women.
Through our D&I Vision – Bring Your Own Self (BYOS), we seek for everyone to lead with humility and bring their individuality, their uniqueness, to work every single day. Focused on inclusive workplace practices, we envision a company where in the next five years, 50% of our workforce will be women, people with disabilities or form the LBGT+ community.
Our social programmes under the aegis of ‘Ek India Happywala’ have given a purpose to many in society. Rooted in the pillars of education, environment and empowerment, we are working across sectors to create social impact. From educating the girl child, supporting rural communities, teaching music at prisons, encouraging and arranging sports for the blind and the homeless to providing relief to the daily wage earners of our industry during the ongoing pandemic, SPN continuously endeavours to enable a happier India.
It’s been an eventful journey of 25 years and we have come a long way. We will continue to go all out and live up to our corporate ethos of ‘Go-Beyond’, not just in name but in action and spirit. Only time will tell the shape and form the forward journey might take, be it through entering new categories, exploring new markets, innovating through new content formats, etc. One thing I am certain of, now and in the years to come, when people close their eyes and think off India’s media and entertainment industry, Sony Pictures Networks India will always be among the first names to come to mind.
In closing, I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for being a guiding ally in our journey. You have had an important role to play in the success of SPN and I fold my hands in gratitude.